Linh Cafe is a bistro that specializes in French and Vietnamese cuisine. The owner, Tai Nguyen came from humble beginnings starting as a dishwasher, moving his way up in the culinary world under the wing of Chef Jean-Yves Bonoit of L’Emotion and Chef Steeve Rayé of Café Régalade- which developed his love for French cuisine. Linh Cafe is defined as a small, casual family restaurant – but the food here is nothing but simple.
The restaurant opens from Wednesday to Sunday and reservations are hard to come by on the weekend as they only accept a limited amount. No reservations are accepted during their brunch service. Located in the heart of Kitsilano, the place is a local favourite with many regular patrons who order their must-haves. Everything is made in house, including their French bread. From time to time, they update their off-menu special items on the chalkboard located at the front and back of the restaurant. In the past, I’ve seen crab salad, rack of lamb, and French-inspired appetizers.
Occupying the middle is their coffee bar offering a modest menu of sweets and espresso-based drinks. The dessert display did not look anything special, but the owner did in fact further is pastry skill with Chef Thierry Busset at Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe a few years ago! Next time, I’ll make sure to grab a handful of sweets on my way out 🙂
Arriving at noon, I was lucky enough to grab the last table before the lunch rush. The service here can be hot/cold as they only have two waitresses on the floor and manning the till.
Here’s a copy of their brunch menu. It offers a mix of Vietnamese, French, and Western-style food items. It was hard to pick and stick within a reasonable budget because everything on the menu just sounds so delicious and unique!
Vietnamese Iced Coffee ($5) While waiting for Bob, I ordered a drink to keep myself occupied. They make their iced coffee ahead of time, not the traditional way of preparing it with a metal drip filter I was anticipating. Vietnamese coffee is usually dark, strong, and full-bodied- however, this one was weak and bland. I would have opted to have it half sweet as there was just way too much condensed milk and not enough bitterness to combat the sugar kill.
Complimentary loaf of bread to start off. Their chalkboard actually states: free refill – rice noodles, vermicelli, bread and butter. So eat your heart out with the carbs here 🙂
Poutine Breakfast ($14.95): Poached egg, peppercorn gravy, black forest ham, Swiss cheese, hand cut fries. Option: Half Butter Poached Lobster (+$30.00) or House Sausage (+$4.50) Unfortunately, we just do not have the budget to add lobster (as much as I would have liked to treat myself to lobster that day). We kept it simple and ordered the dish as is. This also came with a side salad and more bread. The poutine was a little disappointing given how so many people rave about this dish. The peppercorn gravy was too heavy, overpowering the flavours of the other components of the dish. If you’re a black peppercorn lover, by all means you’ll enjoy this one but both Bob and I couldn’t manage to finish. I honestly did not find anything special about their poutine given how the ingredients were nothing spectacular to justify the price tag. This one was a loss.
Chicken Liver ($12.95) Sautéed chicken liver in creamy dijon mustard sauce. Surprisingly enough, this one was under their “To Start” section- and the portion size was huge! Majority of the tables ordered this dish – I even asked the elderly couple beside me what they were eating and lo and behold- it was chicken liver. They encouraged me to order it as well. Bob has also been here previously, and she also insisted on getting the chicken liver to share the moment she sat down. This dish was absolutely spectacular and exceeded my expectations by a long shot. I guess that’s what happens when you dig in with no expectations? Some may find it a bit too adventurous for their palate as it’s not something that appeals to diners who pop in the first time. And some may find the texture off-putting (grainy and tough). What really stole the show was the creamy dijon mustard sauce. It was rich and packed with flavour – I couldn’t help giving myself generous portions of bread to mop up the last bit of the sauce. This one is definitely a must-try!
Pho(Phở) Bo – Hanoi Breakfast ($13.99) Beef noodle soup with braised beef flank and rice noodles.Options: 3.5oz of Striploin Rare Beef (+$8) or Bone Marrow ($4.50) or Poached Eggs ($1.25). I’m not used to shelling out over $10 for a bowl of pho, so this is quite expensive compared to other pho joints in the Lower Mainland. Geographically, Hanoi is located in the Northern part of Vietnam. From my understanding, there is quite a difference between Northern and Southern pho from the texture of noodles, choice of protein, toppings, and sauces. Northern pho tends to use wider rice noodles, clearer broths, minced rare beef or shredded chicken, green onions as topping, and use rice vinegar, fish sauce and chili for seasoning. Reflecting upon it now, there aren’t a lot of places that serve “Northern-style” pho in the city. I quite enjoyed their pho, but I definitely prefer Southern-style pho where the broth is richer and toppings more plentiful with the range of meat balls, flank steak, etc.
One thing to mention is that we did find a couple of bugs from the salad we were served (both in the poutine and chicken liver!) We only received apologies from the kitchen staff but nothing more. I’m usually more uptight about sanitation when things are improperly washed and served – but I was having a good time and it didn’t damper my overall impression of this place. Having visited Linh Cafe for dinner before – going any time of the day really makes no difference as this place will grow on you.
Location: 2836 W 4th Ave (Vancouver, BC)