Though there are plenty of Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsway (it’s not called Little Saigon for nothing), Đồ Chay is a bit of an oddball. I mean that as a compliment: the all vegetarian-or-vegan menu puts an oh-so 2019 twist on traditional menu items, making stuffing ones face with bao buns suddenly a vaguely healthful affair. I. Am. Into. It.
On a Friday afternoon, lines are forming outside for lunch, so it’s clear I’m not the only one delighted at the idea of a full menu of plant-based Ho Chi Minh street food. “Đồ chay” roughly translates to “vegetarian stuff,” so it’s not like they’re trying to pull one over on anyone, but even a skeptical carnivore might be fooled by the meaty textures of the XO potstickers, jammed with mushrooms, cabbage and carrot and hand-wrapped in a delicate wonton wrapper.
It’s the second restaurant for chef and co-owner Patrick Do (he runs Đồ Chay with his mother Yen and partner Amanda Clark, and Yaletown’s House Special with family as well), though this is his first with a focus on veg-forward dishes. The 1,200-square-foot brick and wood space is warm and inviting—probably because it was hand-built over several years by Do’s father Tom—and though it replaced a traditional Chinese medicine shop, there are nods to the room’s past via apothecary jars and a menu titled “Eastern Medicine.”
Coconut rice cakes from Do Chay.
And from my perch at sunny window seat, sipping on a basil-and-gin-and-jasmine-tea concoction (even cocktails have a subtle "good-ish for you" sheen), the Benh Xeo crepe feels like just what the doctor ordered: though it's both vegan and gluten-free, it's still substantive, miraculously, and turmeric gives the fluffy-meets-crunchy jicima-filled rice flour wrap a cheery, sunshine-yellow hue. Crispy daikon cakes with salted radish, meanwhile, disappear off the plate in a flash. I guess I'm just a health nut?
1392 Kingsway, Vancouver