It's a Vietnamese restaurant in a strip mall — but not like any other you'll visit
By Steven Sandor | June 28, 2022
In Douglas Adams’s Restaurant at the End of the Universe (the second book of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series), the heroes of the story make the journey through space and time to visit Milliways. It is, as the book’s title suggests, a restaurant that, sits at the place, and the exact time, where the end of the universe begins. It is a fantastical place, sitting at the edge of armageddon, where those who can afford the time and space travel eat some of the most exotic dishes the universe has to offer. It is an exercise in gluttony. Most notable is the Ameglian Major Cow, a tasty beast that wants to be eaten. The cow is taken to the table, and recommends parts of itself to the diners. It is a place that is wonderful and bizarre and totally impossible.
Miss Saigon does not sit in a place of space time at the end of the universe. It’s in a strip mall near the United Cycle, just south of Whyte Avenue. I went there because I had just picked up some new batting gloves for my son and thought, “wow, I could go for Vietnamese.” So I did.
I did not expect to see a chalkboard the size of a full restaurant wall, filled with names of a few people who had successfully completed the Pho Challenge, and many, many, many more who failed. Basically, you can order a ridiculously large bowl of soup, and you have to finish it. Win, and your name is immortalized. Lose, and your name is immortalized. I like the fact that this restaurant celebrates those who believed they were gluttonous enough to take down the challenge — and lost.
I did not expect to see bubble tea served in what looked like oversized light bulbs, that actually lit up at the bottom.
I did not expect to see someone take off his shirt in the restaurant (it was warm out).
Everything was happening, and I had yet to order. The menu is set up to look like a magazine, with plenty of facts about Vietnam, photos and trivia. And then there were almost too many dishes to choose from. I was not ready for the Pho Challenge. I was also not ready for the Phorrito. This is where all the good stuff from Pho is wedged into a burrito, and served alongside a bowl of soup. So, it’s like a Mexican-Vietnamese soup and sandwich.
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Sure, there was vermicelli and rice dishes, but the names just screamed “go for me!” Flaming Fish. Shaking Beef.
In honour of the Ameglian Major Cow, I went for the “Shaking” beef. I also ordered a Thai iced tea. The tea came first (in a regular glass, darn it), with a strong rosewater flavour in the condensed milk with, of course, lots of tapioca bubbles. The shaking beef was tender, and had little bit of sweetness from where it had kissed the sauce in the grill. It did not shake, but it was darn tasty.
But then I saw what looked like a houseplant being served at another table. And I thought, “whoa, that’s weird.” Until I saw two diners picking at the, ahem, soil. So I asked the server to bring me the dessert that looks like a houseplant. It’s a sprig of basil, planted in a bed of chocolate crumble. Underneath were layers of ice cream and cake. Served in what looked like a plant pot. You see the picture. You know you want it.
I just want to go back to this place over and over, because I think, sooner or later, I will show up at the end of the universe. Don’t worry, the shirt is staying on.
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