Vancouver's Chi Le has made a lot of bold moves in her culinary career, but she may just have made the biggest leap yet. Le has just flipped her namesake restaurant, Chi, to offer a 100 per cent plant-based menu of modern Vietnamese eats.
Launched in late 2016, Kitsilano's Chi Restaurant - now Chi Vegan - is the work of Le, who was once named runner-up on TV's MasterChef Vietnam.
With a multi-regional menu that ranged from family dishes with modern twists, like a coconut-braised pork belly or jackfruit curry, including beloved meat-centric dishes from Le's hometown, Chi was among the new guard of contemporary Vietnamese eateries that have pushed the cuisine to greater prominence in Vancouver over the last few years. Contemporaries like Anh and Chi and House Special opened their doors around the same time as Chi Restaurant; House Special then went on to add sibling spot Do Chay, a vegetarian and vegan-friendly place that has proven so successful House Special is now being transformed into a second Do Chay outpost.
Chi Vegan announced their flip to being fully plant-based in early June, as they took time to revamp the menu and position a relaunch during their COVID-19 closure. In fact, Le cites the shift to being 100% vegan in part to COVID, according to the restaurant, which now states they aim to provide diners "a delicious meal that is not only good for you but good for the planet."
Le "felt that the decision to change over into vegan was not an option but a necessary one to help bring light to the vegan lifestyle. In the end eating vegan is for your health and well being," explains Chi's updated website.
So what's on the new menu? Chi has small bites like rolls filled with veggies and "tofu ham," potstickers, and fried cauliflower wings with a spicy sauce. There's a salad with King Oyster mushrooms and banana blossom, jackfruit lettuce wraps, and loaded bowls and noodles - including a vegan Dan Dan Noodles. While Chi used to make a whole Branzino, now they are doing a Cha Ca La Vong - a plant-based take on a traditional tumeric-infused dish with tofu "fish" and rice noodles.
As a notable bonus, Chi Vegan has a burger on the menu, and in June had a limited promo serving up the Impossible Burger - the U.S.-made faux meat patty not readily found in Vancouver. You may want to keep your eyes on Chi's Instagram to see if they are able to bring the Impossible Burger back for another run.
Additionally, the restaurant sometimes offers "Instant" dishes that appear on Instagram but aren't on the menu that are available only while supplies last. Chi Vegan has also hinted they have plans to package some of their foods for sale via a new shop they plan to launch soon.
Chi Vegan is located at 1935 West 4th Avenue in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood