What’s on the takeout menu at Cà Phê Rang, a new place for pho and banh mi from Matty Matheson’s mentor, chef Rang Nguyen
Name: Cà Phê Rang
Contact info: 147 Spadina Ave., capherang.ca, @capherangrules
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Previously: Birria Balam
Owners: Rang Nguyen, Matty Matheson
Chef: Rang Nguyen
Seating: Takeout only for now, 18 when dine-in is open
Accessibility: Fully accessible
In a way, this place has been in the works since 2003. Back then, Rang Nguyen was head chef of Le Sélect Bistro, where Matty Matheson first cut his teeth as a culinary school dropout. The two formed a quick, tight bond that’s stood the test of time. “Matty was always hungry for some reason,” says Nguyen, to which Matheson replies, “I was a broke-ass kid who needed a real meal.” Speaking of real meals, Matheson used to think soup wasn’t one—his first-ever bowl of pho with Nguyen all those years ago quickly disabused him of that notion.
“I wouldn’t be who I am without Rang,” says Matheson. “I learned more about French technique from him than any other chef in my career.” The menu is an ode to both Nguyen’s culinary heritage—he grew up in Ca Na, a fishing village in southern Vietnam—and the pair’s shared history at Le Sélect. As such, you’ll find the occasional French touch, like crunchy peanut praline in the sauce that accompanies the prawn spring rolls. Soul-warming pho is a mainstay, as is a wide selection of hefty banh mì, each weighing in at around a pound each.
The restaurant was open for dine-in service until recently; as of now, the entire menu is available for takeout and delivery.
Vietnamese coffee, with or without condensed milk, is available iced or hot (though hot drinks are on a temporary hiatus with the takeout-only policy). There’s also a stellar avocado milkshake made with a base of house vanilla ice cream, soda, tea and a tight beer menu that includes Tiger and Heineken.
Sprinkled around the cozy 18-seat restaurant are photos from Nguyen’s past. See if you can spot a nostalgic portrait of Nguyen and Matheson, a panoramic view of the beach at Ca Na, and a photo of Vietnamese pop sensation Tuan Anh. It’s a bright, happy vibe not unlike Nguyen’s reliably sunny demeanour. “Chef Rang’s Commandments,” as listed on the takeout menu, include “stop crying,” “love yourself” and “eat what you want.” Amen.