Working in East Chinatown for the past ten years, feel like I’ve tried most of the restaurants in the ‘hood. There’s this one spot a little further east that’s always eluded me. Bach Yen (738 Gerrard St E) was put in my radar last week by Suresh Doss, and it’s a real winner. Have been 4 times in the past week. This Vietnamese mom & pop just reopened their dining room after a lengthy shut-down due to COVID. They’re home to the best prices in the neighborhood and recently celebrated their 12th year on Gerrard Street East.
There’s a whole lot to like about Bach Yen. Their atypical menu items are a good place to start. Mi Vit Tiem is a bowl of soup with broasted duck leg, seasonal veggies, egg noodles and a broth that’s heavy on the Chinese five-spice. The owners will often confirm my order by explaining the unique flavor profile, the spice level, ask me if I have any food allergies, and reaffirm that all of their produce is sourced locally right in Chinatown East. They take great pride in their food, and I really enjoy how our conversation meanders around the menu… a real personal touch that keeps me coming back for more.
While Bun Bo Xao is available at most Vietnamese restaurants, you’ve never had one quite like this. The beef & lemongrass is next-level spicy. It’s an absolute flavor bomb, and the owners ask me multiple times whether I am equipped to handle that much heat. This dish delivers, big time. If you’re looking for something on the milder side, Bun Ca Kien Giang is a Mekong-river-style grouper & shrimp soup that’s heavy on the fish sauce. Sour, salty, complicated. Either of these dishes are easy on the wallet, both qualifying as #lunchunder10bucks
I’m told that Back Yen means White Swallow in Vietnamese. It’s also the name of an infamous ’60s singer who went to Paris (by way of Hanoi) with dreams of the big time, Edith Piaf style. True to form, Sixties music always emanates from the radio each time I visit Back Yen, making my table-for-one all the more enjoyable.
The Toronto Food Blog is aligned in supporting local small business as much as we can right now. Who knows how long it will be before dining rooms close again with a second COVID wave? We’re getting the good stuff while we can. Speaking of which, can’t wait to head back to Back Yen this Friday, as I’m told that’s the day they make their famous Bo Kho (spicy braised beef stew on rice). Will update this blog post with a snapshot of that stew ASAP.