Every so often there’s a restaurant that I somehow managed to miss, despite it being in my neighbourhood, and even with people referring to it quite regularly. Viva Restaurant, which specializes in Vietnamese and Chinese food is one such place. I went once last year, and had intended to get back, but for some reason never managed to make it. So, in the last couple of weeks I decided to make visiting a priority.
Viva is located on Sargent on the lane way between Spence and Young Streets. It’s on the main floor of an office building. The building itself is rather nondescript, but the restaurant is quite attractive. The layout is an inverted L with the long arm of the L containing the front seating area, counter, and kitchen, and another, dining area forming the short arm of the L.
The front section has several windows, while the back section is windowless. There is a nice variety of table settings from 2-tops to 8-tops. The front end staff is friendly and on each of my visits allowed to find a table of my own choosing. The menus are already on the tables, with drink menus in the back of the condiments containers which contain a variety of sauces.
Visit 1: Vietnamese Offerings
My first review time at Viva, the restaurant was fairly full. This would be true of all my visits. I never hit it at peak hours, but no matter when I went, the restaurant was at least half full and there was a continual coming and going of customers. They also do a fair bit of take-out business as well.
The staff is very friendly in their greeting. They also are efficient in the taking of your order even when there are a fair number of people in the restaurant. My dishes all arrived in good time, although I would have liked a little more spacing between the dishes.
As it was my first time, I decided I would go with a classic Vietnamese choice. I chose the BBQ pork salad rolls. along with the deluxe beef Phô. For a beverage I opted for the hot Vietnamese coffee(which I forgot to photograph).
The BBQ Pork Salad Rolls were quite good. There was a good amount of pork, in them, and it was very flavourful and moist. I also liked the vinegar for dipping. It had a little more seasoning to it, then some of the other ones I’ve tried. The Phô was also excellent. While I do enjoy adding hot sauce to my Phô I also like to try a good portion of it without seasoning to see how good the broth is on it’s own. This broth is very good. The coffee was also very enjoyable. There was lots of hot water, served in a thermos that allowed it to may remain hot as I continued to drink it.
Viva Visit 2
On my next visit I ordered just one item to eat. This time around it was the Sizzling Curried Beef with onions and Green Peppers. Again, this was a dish I really enjoyed. The beef was plenty tender and both the onions and the green peppers had a good degree of crispness to them. The one thing I would have liked more of was gravy. As there wasn’t a lot in the dish. The dish came with a good helping of rice.
This time around I ordered a jackfruit shake as my beverage. I enjoyed it so much, that I ordered a second one to finish off my meal.
Viva for a Third Time.
When I had ordered on previous occasions I noticed that Viva offered Banh Mi, the Vietnamese subs, and I figured I’d stop in again and give them a try. They sell for $4.50, so I thought I would want something else to go along with it for supper. As I looked through the menu, I noticed they had frogs legs, and thought I might order that. However, I also saw that they had a Viva Fried Rice dish marked as customer favourite.
The Banh Mi was excellent. The bread had a good crust, and was soft beneath the first bite. The carrots were good and crispy to go along with well-cooked meat that was melt in the mouth tender. What really made the sandwih for me is that it was well buttered. This added an unctuous quality to it that elevated it above the Bamh Mi I’ve tried.
As Viva advertises themselves as Vietnamese and Chinese for cuisine, I decided to go with the Fried Rice. My experience in restaurants that specialize in two different cuisines is that one is usually better than the other. This is not the case at Viva as both are very well done. This is definitely true of the Viva Fried Rice. This rice comes with beef, pork, and shrimp. The seasoning was so good that it didn’t need any soy sauce to liven it up. This means that it doesn’t start to get soggy as you go along.
Vietnam was a French colony and so one can often find a French element to Vietnamese cooking. Cafe Ce Soir is probably the most notable example here in Winnipeg. Feeling like I might be able to put down a little more food I ended up giving the frog’s legs a try. I’ve had frog’s legs before, but I can’t remember where and when.
These ones though are very good. The meat is very tender, and there was a good bit of curry gravy to go with it. The bones are a little challenge, but they are worth the effort, to get at the meat.
There are a lot of other menu items that I haven’t tried, and given how much I’ve enjoyed my previous visits, I will definitely be getting around to trying them over the next coming months.