Concrete Continuity at Anh and Chi

Anh and Chi is a sexy and sleek destination for authentic Vietnamese food in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Anh and Chi opened in 2016 but some of the recipes they serve at this Michelin Bib Gourmand location have been Vancouver favourites for decades.

Back to the Beginning

To tell the story of Anh and Chi, you have to go back to the late 1980’s and the days of Phở
Hoàng. Actually you have to go back even earlier than that to 1983, when a little pho spot popped up in a home kitchen. Hoàng Nguyễn and Ly Thi started in their home before moving to a restaurant location at Main and 20th. After moving once more, they occupied the space now known as Anh and Chi for over thirty years. With the passing of their father, the Nguyễn siblings decided to change the future of the restaurant while still honouring its past.

The Meaning of Anh and Chi

The name Anh and Chi references this multi-generational legacy. In Vietnamese, it means elder brother and elder sister of the same family. The restaurant was transformed by brother and sister, Vincent and Amélie. While neither had intended on entering the restaurant business, and in fact, both had been pursuing careers in medicine and healthcare, when faced with deciding the fate of the restaurant, they knew what they had to do. Anh and Chi was born.

Vincent and Amelie Anh and Chi owners
Photograph by Mark Yammine

Anh and Chi also translates to a respectful form of address for a friend or even a stranger, man or woman, generally above one’s age; it is an address for fellow members of the same community. These two pillars, family and community, form Anh and Chi’s foundation. That and the concrete floor that was originally poured by Vincent and Amélie’s father. Other than the floor, and the familiar smells emanating from the kitchen, when Anh and Chi opened it had been utterly transformed from its former self.

New Space, Same Chef

It is a luscious, vibrant space. The gender neutral bathrooms are cleverly designed sacrificing not an ounce of style for function. I was just admiring the trough sink that is tilted for swift drainage on my last visit. The bar is a stunning focal point with its custom bamboo stained glass, and just right of the bar is a neon nod to 1983, when the roots of Anh and Chi took hold in the neighbourhood. It is a place of business but also a place for the community.

Anh and Chi table
Photograph by Leila Kwok

The food is served family style; it is meant to be shared. Continuity is maintained in the kitchen where Ly Thi is still Executive Chef. She comes in every morning, and still wants to select the produce herself. Because of her, customers enjoy crisp lettuce, unblemished basil, and plump bean sprouts.

Three Generations of Vietnamese Cooking

You would think that, given the success of Phở Hoàng, the dish that started it all would have been phở. But when Amelie asked her mom, she learned that her Grandmother had actually started by selling crab noodle soup. The Bún Riêu Cua is, as the menu says,  “Grandma’s Crab Tomato Noodle Soup.” Anh and Chi’s features delectably soft crab meat and roe soufflé, as well as fried tofu in a pork bone broth that simmers overnight.

Anh and Chi crab and tomato soup
Photograph by Leila Kwok

My Anh and Chi Order

I must confess, I’m a bit of a creature of habit. My go-to order at Anh and Chi starts with the Chả Giò pork spring rolls. The spring rolls come with lettuce and herbs to wrap your roll in, and the signature house fish sauce to dip in. By the way, you can now buy the sauce bottled. Then I have maybe my favourite salad in the city, the Gỏi Rau Muống. The base is water spinach which has great texture. It is similar to green onion but with none of the sharp onion flavour. The curly spinach holds the bright and fresh dressing well, and the vinegary-ness cuts through the richness of the warm beef.

beef and water spinach salad Anh and Chi

I usually go to Anh and Chi with my sister and her favourite is the Bún Bò Huế. So if I let her have a little of my salad, she’ll let me have a little of her soup. The Bún Bò Huế has a rich and spicy broth and comes with an assortment of pork and beef as well as thicker bouncy noodles. If you like it really spicy, as we do, ask for some of the chilli oil and dig in.

Anh and Chi is open every day at 3388 Main Street. You can also find their food on Fresh Prep until April.

 

 

About Bronwyn Lewis 60 Articles
Bronwyn Lewis is a food writer for the Vancouver Guardian. She’s also a screenwriter and producer. Born and raised in Vancouver, Bronwyn lives in Mount Pleasant and you can follow all her food adventures on Instagram.