For all the years I walked by it in Osborne Village, I never once visited Vi-Ann restaurant. I’m not sure why, although Spicy Noodle House has always been my Osborne Village stand-by. Then all of a sudden, in a controversial decision, Vi-Ann was gone. Eventually it re-opened on Notre Dame. However, it was only recently that I noticed the new location. This time I decided I had to make sure I tried it. So, in the last couple of weeks that’s what I did.
The feeling when I walked in was that the space had at one time been home to some sort of chain restaurant. It turns out that it was a CIBC branch. While not a restaurant I think the fact that it was a small bank gives it something of a generic feel. As a restaurant, Vi-Ann’s decor is simple and straightforward. The most notable thing is a large screen TV on the one wall that plays CBC news on an endless loop. However, based on several Vietnamese restaurants that I’ve visited, I know it’s the food and not the decor that is usually the selling point. Vi-Ann is no different.
Late Supper at Vi-Ann
My first visit to Vi-Ann was on a day when it was getting later in the evening and as I wandered down Notre Dame there weren’t a lot of places still open. Vi-Ann was open until 10 pm so I knew I wouldn’t be in a rush to finish my meal. Went I when in I was told to take a seat at any table, and so I ended up right in the middle of the restaurant. While not busy there will still several tables in use.
Despite knowing that I would want to try the Phô at some point, I wasn’t in the mood for it that evening. So I decided to go with the Curry Chicken Sizzler plate. I also added the Pork and Shrimp salad rolls as a starter. Despite the number of people in the restaurant, the order came quite quickly. The salad rolls were fresh and plump, and the peanut sauce was a little thinner than some of the others I tried. I quite liked this, as it was less overwhelming than some of them are. The sizzler plate was huge, with a curry sauce that was reasonably spicy, and like the peanut sauce just a little bit thinner than some, so that it wasn’t as gelatinous at the end. The portion was large enough that with the salad rolls it was all I could manage to finish it (I’m not one for doggy bags).
I went again last night. With the rain coming down, I figured I’d take a bus home from St. Philip’s, and the 19 Notre Dame took me close enough to go the last couple of blocks without worrying about getting too wet.
This time, the Phô was definitely my choice. I wanted to try a couple of other items, so I only ordered a large. Along with the Phô I ordered Spring Rolls, a Siopao (meat filled bun), and a Vietnamese Coffee. Of everything I ordered over two visits the Spring Rolls were the one disappointing item. Although not burnt, they pastry seemed a little overcooked and the filling wasn’t particularly appealing. I did enjoy the Siopao, although I prefer the one from Phô Mama.
The Phô however, I really enjoyed. It started with a thick, dark and rich broth. I ordered the Deluxe Beef. There was a good quantity of meat, and the sliced beef was very tender. The Beef Balls were also tender. What I really liked about this Phô was that the noodles were chewy, adding a sense of substance to the dish.
While I think Phô Mama will still be my first choice in the Notre Dame-McPhilips area, Vi-Ann makes a nice alternative, and is a little bit more direct from my apartment. I certainly expect to come here again over the coming months.