Binh An is the third North Main restaurant that I visited first early in January. The other two were Modern Coffee and Newcastle Restaurant. Bihn An is located in a little strip mall just south of Main and Redwood.
One aspect of Binh An that I like is that there is good bus service up to it. The 15, 18, and 20 routes all stop across the street. When you walk in the register is straight ahead of you, and to your right you find tables lining down each wall, with the kitchen in behind on the left and the washrooms, etc., behind the tables on your right.
The restaurant bills itself as Vietnamese-Chinese and this is reflected in the wall decor. On the right side walls their are handmade pictures of several Vietnamese dishes while on the left side are several works of art that one would expect to find in most Chinese restaurants.
Vietnamese Meal, Chinese Beverage
On my first visit I figured that I would start out with several items from the Vietnamese portion of the menu. I ordered a single spring roll, Pork salad rolls, and the medium-rare beef and beef ball rice noodle soup(Pho).
The three dishes all had on thing in common and that was, unfortunately, that the meat in each dish was overcooked. The spring roll had a strip down one side, where all the meat was hard, crunchy, and dry. The flavour was good, but on the whole the dish was a little disappointing. The salad roll was the most disappointing of the three items. I didn’t get a picture of the salad roll, but the pork was dry, dry, dry. Dry like a crust of bread that’s been sitting on a counter for a couple of days dry.
The Phô does have a good broth. There is a good pile of onion and noodles in it, and there was also plenty of beef, Again, though the beef was overcooked, and quite tough. The pot of green tea was a nice break from all the coffee I had been drinking during the course of that day. On the whole though, I left rather uninspired by my meal. Nonetheless, when I had the time I made sure I made another visit. With the VIetnamese choices leaving me a little cold, I decided that on my second visit I would attempt the Chinese portion of the menu.
Binh An Chinese Meal with Vietnamese Beverage
My second trip to Binh An was also on a late Saturday afternoon. This time when i got to the restaurant I was the only customer in the place, although a young couple entered shortly after me. I hadn’t eaten much during the day, so I was in the mood for a couple of appetizers to go along with my main dish. I ordered two egg rolls, along with deep-fried wontons. For my main dish I went with the Spicy Malaysian Chicken. My beverage choice was a hot Vietnamese Coffee.
My wontons and my egg rolls both arrived at the same time, and on the same platter. Unlike the dishes I had on my previous visit I found that both of these were cooked really well. The egg rolls may look a little dark, but they were pleasantly crispy and crunchy. the filling was largely carrot with a few bean sprouts. This makes for a nice change from most egg rolls that just seem to contain some sort of bean sprout mush inside.
The wontons were a very pleasant surprise. First off, there were so many of them, and each one was quite large. The next thing is that, despite being deep fried, there was no greasiness to them at all. This also meant that there was no heaviness to them. Given the size of the order I received, I thought that they might make it difficult to work through the rest of my meal, but such was not the case. The sweet and sour sauce was neither overly sweet nor overly sour, and certainly is a pleasant change from sauces from a plastic tube.
My chicken dish was quite enjoyable. There were plenty of chinks of chicken. If anything they were bigger than I would have preferred. There was also a good variety of vegetables. Lots of peppers, both green and yellow, carrots, and onions. The whole plate was sprinkled generously with sesame seeds. As for the sauce, there wasn’t a whole lot of it. However, it did a pretty good job of living up to the spicy billing. Not the hottest, but one that left a pleasant buzz, and made the nose run just a little.
One of the interesting sidelights to the restaurant is when my glass of Vietnamese Coffee arrived, it was placed in a bowl of hot water to keep everything hot while the coffee dripped through. This seemed to help as the coffee did remain quite warm at least as I drank my way through it.
Service here is ok. I was greeted and shown to a table relatively quickly, and the food arrives reasonably quickly after you order it. However there are a few little niggles as far as service goes. One, I had to ask for chopsticks because I had only been brought knife and fork for my meal. Two the couple that arrived after me go their order taken before me. It wasn’t a long delay, but I had taken the time to write out my order, and orders should generally be taken in the order customers arrive.
If I’m on North Main, I would certainly stop in at Binh An, but I’m more likely just to stay in the West End.