If you are from Vietnam, Anh and Chi offers a taste of home.
We sat comfortably with Amelie and her daughter in one of the cozy dining booths at Anh and Chi, as Amelie multi-tasked, feeding the baby as she chatted with us. When she shares the story of Anh and Chi, it seems personal - you feel as though you are swept into a part of their journey to build the family business.
Anh and Chi stands for "brother and sister", a figure of speech to describe all who are close, like family, to you. To Vincent and Amelie, Anh and Chi pays tribute to all the brothers and sisters who helped their family out when their parents came to Canada as refugees. This is their way to pay it forward. When you eat here, you can feel that the entire team are 'Anh and Chi' for each other, and the service is warm, welcoming and comfortable.
Vincent (Amelie's brother) and her are co-owners or Anh and Chi. Prior to this venture, Amelie studied population and public health and worked at WHO on HIV prevention in Hanoi; meanwhile, Vincent studied medical school in Australia.
The decision to start Anh and Chi put a lot of pressure on the brother sister duo, to carry on their father's legacy. Their father had invested over 30 years into Pho Hoang, a recognized local eatery which shuttered in late 2015. Vincent and Amelie transformed the location into Anh and Chi, a hip dining spot that values customer service, good food, and a unique dining atmosphere that breaks from the stereotyped Vietnamese fast-food establishments. This courageous decision resulted in 20-22 hour days at the beginning, as the team worked together to figure out their own set of 'best practices'.
The staff has also required time to transition into the new service model, versus the old, where they were trained to cook speedily to push out dishes. Now, there is a mix of the old and new, where the traditional flavours remain, and the heart and time invested into the design of each dish plays into the overall dining experience for the patrons.
Fast forward 2 years later, Anh and Chi is a local favourite, with customers waiting outside the door before the restaurant is opened. The interior is filled with an abundance of natural sunlight, and a patio allows sun-lovers to bask in the sun while enjoying Vietnamese delicacies. It looks to us that the duo has fulfilled their vision to "create a hub to facilitate people to connect and build relationships in the midst of the hustle and bustle... where they can relax, eat good food, and have nice cocktails."
Amelie's mom is the head chef of the restaurant, and the duo are constantly working on innovative dishes still true to Vietnamese tradition. Amelie's mom experiments with a dish until it is ready to teach to the kitchen staff. We can only imagine the delicious food Amelie enjoyed at her family table as she was growing up!
As we chatted, we couldn't ignore the delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen. Amelie had chosen a refreshing dishes and classics for us to enjoy over our lunch interview, which included the Fresh mango and Tamarind Prawn Salad, with fresh prawns that were crunchy and perfectly done, and the mango salad was just what we needed on a hot day.
The Om Bowl, a Vegetarian Vermicelli bowl, is very nice as a summer dish as well, with its mix of textures from the vibrant vegetables, crispy spring rolls, grilled organic tofu, okra and shiitake mushroom over a bed of greens and mixed herbs. It's served with a light soy sauce that can be poured over the dish and mixed or used as a separate dipping sauce.
The Giant River Prawn is our most memorable dish and I still rave about it to anyone who would listen, about the flavourful sauce that can easily make me eat three bowls of rice. The sweet river prawn flavour meshes beautifully with the lemongrass, creating a sauce that reminds you of the refreshing taste of ocean.
We can see the beef and lemon grass skewers being a crowd favourite as a share plate (although most of us would not want to share these tasty morsels!) The beef is wrapped around a sugarcane stick, unlike other eateries where you get it on a wooden stick - and the difference is night and day; who knew the beef and sugarcane would be a match made in heaven?!
Not only did the team meticulously pour over the menu, they also brought on an interior design agency, House of Bohn, to create the restaurant's eclectic interiors. The concept was to create a space that evokes the various traditions of Vietnam but is done so in a modern way.
Some interior design highlights would be the bronze 'Vietnamese hats' that are stacked as a lighting fixture at one of the circular booths. The washroom, which is gender neutral with warm tones and wallpaper that reminds you of the lush jungles of Vietnam. The walls are decorated with custom Moorish tiles from Vietnam, based off of tiles Amelie saw at Catholic Churches in Vietnam back in 2013.
We regret that our time spent at the restaurant was cut short, but Anh and Chi is a spot you will want to return to again and again, not just for the great food, but also for the team's attentive and warm hospitality. Thank you again to Amelie for taking us in and treating us to their delicious menu!
3388 Main St, Vancouver, BC
Photos: Florence Leung