Location: 806 Centre St NE
We used to come to this location back when it was Happy Hill Restaurant for dim sum. Though it was often on the noisy side, this place was always packed and served some of the most delicious dim sum I have ever had. Unfortunately that closed down and became a sushi restaurant, which I never ended up visiting and now it’s a Vietnamese restaurant.
While scanning the menu, the Cambodian Noodle Soup caught my eye. The last time I had had this was at Giang Nam before it closed down. For those who have never had cambodian noodles, they’re very similar to sweet potato or tapioca noodles (also called crystal or glass noodles), but they’re not nearly as chewy. So of course, I had to order this. Little did I know I was about to be sorely disappointed. My sister had her usual: Bun Bo Hue and my dad ordered his usual Beef Stew with rice or egg noodle (only he said the wrong number and ended up with a Seafood Noodle Soup). My mom went for a rice dish, the BBQ Pork Chop on Broken Rice.
Lately, my dad has a thing with ordering a starter when we go for Vietnamese food and it’s always spring rolls. The spring rolls here were actually quite decent and filled with meat rather than fillers (cellophane noodles, vegetables, oil).
For those who have had pho, Cambodian noodles, or Chinese rice noodles, you would know from the second you put it your mouth that something wasn’t right. There was something off about the texture. It wasn’t exactly mushy, but it was soft. And though it didn’t “bleed” into the soup, it was starchy. They didn’t do too badly on the soup. It both smelled and tasted exactly as I had remembered them. There was a fairly good meat to noodle ratio (but of course I prefer more noodles to meat so there was too much meat for my liking). Unlike most places that serve Cambodian noodles soups, they chose to use kidney rather than liver and slice it thinner than I’m used to. I think the choice to do that is because kidney has a much milder taste than liver and is a lot smoother. Valerie’s Bun Bo Hue wasn’t at all like the one we usually have a Pho Huong Viet (I haven’t done a food review on this place because I usually forget or so packed that we just want to eat and get gone so I don’t have time to take pictures, but it is a really good restaurant like my favourite Vietnamese restaurant of all time). It wasn’t spicy like it should be and the noodles were too soft. My dad’s dish was ordinary, so I have nothing really to say. It’s honestly just noodles and seafood, which everyone knows the taste of. The broth was just the same as the staple in all Chinese noodle houses, so it was decent. My mom’s dish was the highlight of the evening. It was huge for our/her standards. In fact, she was unable to finish it all. The rice came with a “salad” on the side and I’d have to say that it’s one of the healthier feeling options on the menu.
Having said all that (or complained about it), I would return to this restaurant to try the vermicelli and woven vermicelli dishes. Since it’s days as Happy Hill Restaurant, it’s remodeled the dining area and now looks very sleek. However, the bathroom has not been remodeled and remains the dirty, dingy, dungeon it was before. From this experience, I’d rate this place a 3/5.