Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ahn Dao Vietnamese Restaurant, Toronto Ont.

This innocent looking weed almost ruined a really good dining experience.

More on this later.

After a long day of rich food and wine tasting in Niagara, we thought it best to have a bit of a lighter meal for dinner.

We wandered up Spadina towards College as TJD had the perfect place in mind.

Anh Dao is a perfect example of a family run hole in the wall restaurant.  Through the narrow doorway at the back of the restaurant you could see the many generations working in the humble kitchen.

383 Spadina
Toronto, Ont.

This was a nippy Tuesday night in Toronto and this popular restaurant was full.  As soon as we walked in we were greeted with the familiar smell of simmering Pho broth….mmm so comforting on a chilly night!  It’s interesting to me coming from the very Asian Richmond, that many of the ethnic restaurants in Toronto had customers from all ethnicities.  Very nice to see, and a bit different than the local Richmond scene.

Being that BS and TJD often visit Ahn Dao, I left the ordering to them.

Pho with Raw Beef, Tendon, Flank, Tripe and Beef Ball

This was a pretty tasty bowl of pho, nice broth and not chock full of MSG. 

Nem Nuong, grilled pork meatballs with rice noodle and herbs.

This is kind of a DIY meal......Yummy garlicky pork sausages grilled and served with Rice Paper wrapper and fresh herbs and bean sprouts. They serve up a bowl of warm water to soften the rice paper wrapper and you fill the wrapper up with fresh herbs, lettuce, noodles and sausage. This was something that TJD really wanted me to try.  I tried and was very confused why he was raving about it……..remember the innocent weed……more later.

Bahn Xeo, These sizzling, chewy, crispy Vietnamese crêpes are made from rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric.  The crepe is stuffed with crispy bean spouts and tasty shrimp. It’s served sizzling hot. It may look like an omelette but does not taste anything like one. Similar to the Vietnamese preferred way of eating egg rolls, you wrap a piece of the crepe with lettuce of choice and numerous options of greeneries and herbs, and then dipped in the fish sauce, dipping sauce…remember that weed!

Spring Rolls
These were good, with a nice flavorful pork filling.  Only thing I thought was a bit off was they used Chinsese Spring Roll wrappers instead of the traditional rice wrapper.  Still tasty, but I think I prefer the rice wrapper when having this type of spring roll.  Again served with lettuce and lots of herbs and dipping sauce.

I learned that it is very traditional to use lettuce to pick up many of the fried Vietnamese dishes.  Apparently to keep the fingers from getting greasy…..who knew…brilliant though!

Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop
This was delicious, nicely marinated and flavorful.  The pork chop was quite thin but cooked perfectly, just done and not dried out.

As I started in on this meal, I could see that TJD was watching to see if I was enjoying the food.  Normally, he is spot on with his recommendations as he really knows what I enjoy in the food department.

I was strangely silent and non-committal through my first few bites.  TJD could tell something was wrong and was thinking I was not enjoying this meal…….and in actuality he was right.  I was almost to the point of gagging and not being able to put another bite into my mouth…….not normal for me.  I can eat just about anything.

Upon dissection of what was before me…….I pulled out the “innocent weed” and asked, “what is this stuff”  no one knew and assumed it was basil.  Well no way, no how was that basil. 

I got a distinct taste of fish….. BAD, dried up, old, oily fish from this weed.  It was on my hands and everything I touched took on this awful fishy taste. 

Needless to say, I was very happy to discover that if I didn’t add this to what I was eating, I could actually taste the true flavor of the dishes. 
OK…happy now and glad that TJD didn’t steer me wrong in the food department.

All in all this was a very nice meal, delightfully fresh and satisfying, without being overly heavy……..Minus the fishy weed!!!

I eventually asked the waiter about this fishy tasting weed and he said he didn’t know what it was or what it was called. He said he has tried to google it and can only describe it as fish leaf.  Gosh, I think they should serve this with a warning.

You have no idea how relieved I was to discover what was giving everything this overpowering fishy taste.  After discovering what it was and carefully choosing to leave it out, I really enjoyed everything we had. 

I would love to learn more about this weed…..definitely a new taste sensation for me.  So far not an enjoyable one….but am willing to learn.  Who knows….maybe I will even like it one day!!! 
Anyone know about this “herb” and care to share? 

I would recommend this restaurant for a nice meal.  Good value, good service, Good food...the menu is is large offering many different dishes……just be warned about the fish leaf!

This meal was just under $40 with tax and tips…….


  1. Fish leaf huh? I can't find anything like this at all. Wait, let me email the owner of Mui Ngo Gai and see if he knows. Ben

  2. thanks Ben! I've done a bit of looking too to no avail. Will be interested in what you can find out.

  3. The owner of Mui Ngo Gai came back to us about that leaf ... and told us this:

    "My wife has not had time yet to figure it out in english yet."

    Not too helpful, huh? So the chef knows about it but just don't know what it's called in English.


  4. thanks Ben....maybe he will get back to to us with the English...

  5. Got the name, finally! I can take this off my mind now ... the leaf is called Rau Dap Ca. See this page:


    Ben "When There Is A Will" Chow

  6. hey thanks Ben....
    now go and find it and try it was quite interesting...
    would love to know what you think about it.

  7. Hi, I came across your page while looking up reviews about Anh Dao restaurant. The innocent leaf in question is "rau dap ca" or fish mint at Asian store (if you can find them). It has awful fishy taste, but if you can somehow convert to liking them, they have a refreshing light sour taste that is very refreshing. There is also a Japanese fish mint, not too fishy taste however they are hairy compare to the one you encountered.