Dozens of pink flowers hover gently above. Impossibly small pineapples peek out of potted plants. There's a swing suspended from the ceiling bedecked in blossoms, beckoning to have its photo taken, with you in it. A pair of pastel rotary telephones perch side-by-side on the bar wall.
This is Bonjour Vietnam Bistro, a dream finally realized for Vancouver's Nguyet Dang, who has spent well over a year getting her tropical garden-inspired restaurant showcasing the flavours of her native land up and running.
Dang, Bonjour's co-owner, secured the space - a former longstanding neighbourhood Chinese restaurant - back in March 2019 after a six month search.
Another 12 months of construction followed, on top of logistics such as interviewing staff, hiring a chef, scheduling training and organizing the grand opening originally set for March 26, 2020.
We all know what happened next though: An unexpected guest walked in. COVID-19 forced Dang and Bonjour Vietnam to defer the dream, until now. They were closed before they could even open.
Fortunately, B.C.'s "Phase 2" of the re-start plan has allowed restaurants to welcome guests. Opening their doors officially on Tuesday, June 16, Bonjour Vietnam is offering both dine-in and take-out from their menu of authentic and multi-regional Vietnamese fare.
This is a first restaurant venture for Dang, who says she has long yearned to share with Vancouverites the flavours of her native Vietnam, as well as offer them a little tropical getaway without having to leave the city.
Dang credits the botanic motif of Bonjour to her girlhood in Vietnam, from spending time with her father in their small garden, or with her grandmother in her "super-size" countryside garden.
In preparing to open, Dang and the Bonjour team secured dozens and dozens of faux blooms from frames that were hung from the ceiling. Posts were adorned with blossoms, and you can just imagine stepping into the lush realm of the vibrant wallpaper and being offered a cool, fruity drink.
On the menu: salad rolls, spring rolls, crispy fried chicken wings awaiting a squeeze of lime and a quick dip in salt and pepper. There are wok-fried rice and noodle dishes, meat skewers, sweet tropical mango or papaya salads, and of course more noodles, in loaded bowls or in soup, including an array of phở as well as bún bò huế. There are several vegetarian options as well for many of the dishes.
Dang says her favourites are the noodles as well as the mango salad, though she does seem understandably hard-pressed to name just a couple. The ingredients are fresh and the flavours bright and sunny. I sampled a deep fried spring roll (chả giò) eaten wrapped in a lettuce leaf with fresh mint and basil, salt and pepper chicken wings (cánh gà), the mango salad (gỏi xoài) with juicy grilled chicken skewers (gà xiên), and wok-fried rice noodles (hủ tiếu xào) with mixed vegetables, fried onions, roasted peanuts, and plump prawns.
As a way to give back, Bonjour Vietnam is also running a charitable program called Chopstick Drive. Proceeds from chopsticks purchased at the restaurant will be donated to BC Children’s Hospital.
Bonjour Vietnam Bistro is located at 3944 Fraser Street in Vancouver. Their hours are Tuesday through Thursday and Sundays from 5-9:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5-10:30 p.m.
With a file from Aleksandra Sagan/Canadian Press