Name: Banh Haus Contact: Lower level of 81 Huron St., banhhaus.life, @banhhaus.life Neighbourhood: Chinatown
Owners: Lily, Ryan and Steven Dinh Chef: Ryan Dinh Seating: Takeout only for now Accessibility: Flight of stairs down to lower-level entrance
A creative, highly customizable menu of Vietnamese specialties with fresh, zingy flavours and a subtle focus on good nutrition. (This is not obvious “health food” by any means, but co-owner Steven Dinh says thoughtful portioning played a part in menu design). It’s run by the Dinh family, Lily and her sons Steven and Ryan. Ask what’s in a dish and more often than not, you’ll get a classic family business response: “mom’s secret recipe.”
A large portion of the menu is choose-your-own-adventure style. You get to pick a protein—like sweet pork sausage, curry tofu, or fried chicken—to go with your base of choice: rice, vermicelli, banh mi, or banh tieu. The latter is a fluffy Vietnamese doughnut typically served with condensed milk. Its use as a sandwich base is far from traditional, but it works—its light sweetness compliments the proteins. If you’re not in a decisive mood, one of several pre-designed house (or “haus,” as it’s spelled here) favourites should fit the bill. The original banh mi with pate, pork belly, and soy-based Vietnamese sausage is a solid place to start.
There’s a range of espresso-based beverages, the standout of which is silky smooth Vietnamese iced coffee, made with condensed milk and locally roasted Vietnamese beans. Smoothies and sparkling juice are also on offer, and in a wide variety of flavours; for the sparkling juice, you also get to pick between green, black, or oolong tea as a base.
An outdoor barbecue doubles as a prudent ventilation strategy and a siren song of BBQ aromas to entice passersby; helpful, since the restaurant is tucked away on the lower level. The tight, takeout-only space is brightened by a mural of anime characters—Sailor Moon, Hamtaro and friends are pictured sharing food around a table, meant to reflect the convivial tradition of Vietnamese eating. When the weather warms up, Banh Haus will open a small number of outdoor seats.
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