When it snows unexpectedly in Vancouver, the entire city seems to shut down. Journalists use words like “Snowmageddon,” and photos of car and bus pile-ups dominate the local news. It was snowing on the February day I went to Chau Veggie Express with some friends, and we hoped it would be open. We’ve heard the restaurant often attracts long lines; despite the weather, we were determined to find out why.
Chau Veggie Express is a family-run vegetarian restaurant. Chau’s website says that their journey started on the streets of Saigon, where the owner’s mother, Co, “discovered her passion for food when she was only 13 years old, crafting traditional Vietnamese delicacies while working at a small soup-stall.” Chau is a community-based restaurant with “roots in family and culture.” While Victoria Drive is home to many Vietnamese restaurants, Chau stands out for their plant-based and vegan options.
When we arrived at noon, the eatery was nearly empty. As we studied the menu, large groups trickled in and sat at communal wooden tables. Bright hanging lights illuminated lush, wall-mounted greenery and a large photo of Co Chau smiling warmly from behind the front counter.
We started with the tasty Baiso Beach Chips and Namaste Fresh Rolls. The hand-cut taro chips, which come with creamy paprika and garlic dip, are perfect for sharing. The Namaste rolls consist of ricepaper wrapped around thin vermicelli rice noodles, mung beans, leafy lettuce, steamed tofu, crispy shallots, quinoa, carrot strips, and crisp cucumbers. The rolls are light and refreshing, and contrast with the crunch of the crispy wheat centre. A seriously satisfying, savoury-sweet peanut dipping sauce adds extra flavour.
Next, we devoured the Rickety Rick Shaw Bowl, which piles crispy spring rolls, shallots, cucumbers, pickled carrots, and roasted peanuts generously over rice noodles. The accompanying tangy vegan “fish” sauce was delicious and tastes like the real thing. Chau Veggie’s large portion of Pho Lantern Soup was equally as delicious. The cinnamon and cardamom broth with fresh, flavourful veggies and herbs was perfect for the cold day. We were too full and satisfied to order dessert, but their dessert and coffee bar displayed tasty-looking vegan and gluten-free pastries.
Chau Veggie Express’ fresh flavours and friendly faces explain the eatery’s popularity. We would like to return and enjoy the vast variety of vegetarian options with savoury sweetness. Want to avoid the line? Journey here when it snows. It will help you temporarily–and happily–forget the term “Snowmageddon.”
Chau Veggie Express’ has two locations:
5052 Victoria Drive, Vancouver, BC (East Vancouver)
1689 Johnston Street, Vancouver, BC (Granville Island in the market)