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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Dang Good Vietnamese Cuisine - restaurant review

Everybody needs a favorite take-out place.  When the DH and I lived down by Edmonton's Jasper Avenue (in the apartment from hell, if you'll remember...), our favorite takeout was from Jasper Sushi & Noodle House.  They were just down the street from our house, and had fabulous cheap sushi and green onion cakes.  So we stuffed ourselves regularly.  When we moved, we were forced to leave behind our favorite takeout joint behind, with no small amount of regret as this family-run business had become a fixture in our lives and our dietary habits.  And there was much more sadness, because our new neighborhood completely lacked even a shred of the culinary presence of downtown.  Hardly even a take-out joint in sight! (Because the supremely vegan-UNfriendly Burger Baron doesn't count as take-out, let alone as food.)

However, we were given cause for optimism this weekend with the opening of Dang Good, a new Vietnamese restaurant located at Circle Square, on St.Albert Trail and 118th Avenue traffic circle NW corner.  This convenient, high traffic shopping area located just north of Westmount Mall contains mostly service businesses (accountants, hair salons, laundromat, etc), but is also home to a few small restaurants, including the new Dang Good which opened it's doors on March 1st.

We were there on the second day of operations.  A billboard had advertised vegan-friendly options so I immediately wanted to sample the wares.  The restaurant has a very modern style and colour palette, with hints of traditional style here and there.  I loved the fact that their fishtank is of a virtual nature, broadcast on large screen TV's, rather than the heinously dirty and uncared for tanks you typically see in restaurants.  As a new restaurant should be, Dang Good was sparkling clean and new.

There were many servers working at this family-owned operation when we arrived.  We ordered tea, and proceeded to examine their diverse menu, which included Vietnamese subs, rice dishes, pho and a collection of eclectic appetizers.

Very cute, modern dishware.
Many items on Dang Good's menu are marked as "vegetarian or vegan" options available.  However, these are very clearly not the same thing, and the terms are not really interchangeable.  After seeing a chow mein dish listed as one of these items (chow mein typically contains egg), I asked our server which of the items could be made specifically vegan.  She was really not sure, and attempted to find out the answer for us.  However, in the busyness of the restaurant's second day, she was never able to give me a precise answer for this.  Now I'm a pretty forgiving vegan in general and will tolerate if an item has small amounts of egg (no milk though, makes me ill), but this is an issue that Dang Good will need to address in the near future.  Their staff need to have a list available of what is truly vegan versus what is only vegetarian.  I took my chances and settled on a Vietnamese Sub, and the DH ordered an udon noodle bowl.

Soon after we ordered, our server brought us this mystery item:

Not too sure what I'm looking at?
DH and I, for the life of us, could not come to an agreement on what this item is.  I suggested that it might be a salad of some kind, with bean sprouts, basil, lemon and a chili pepper.  DH pooh-poohed this idea, as we hadn't yet received any cutlery with which to eat it.  He thought that it might be toppings to add to your main dish.  We never did agree... and pecked at the bean sprouts while we waited.

Things went a bit off the rails at this point, as we waited quite a while before we were informed that there were no udon noodles available at that time for DH's dish.  Knowing that this is all a matter of a new restaurant getting it's "sea legs", DH cheerfully ordered something different.  The manager on duty, Linda, was highly attentive to this delay and change, and provided us with green onion cakes to enjoy on the house while we waited for our entrees to arrive.

And they were crispy and delicious. :)

And at last, my sandwich commeth!:

Really good.
While I was expecting tofu, my sandwich appeared to be a faux-ham.  Which was only the second thing on my mind after the surprise over the portion size.  For a sandwich priced at only $5.25, it was a very generous portion.  I was expecting an item about half this size.  Along with the faux ham, the sub contained cucumbers, scrumptious pickled carrots, and just the right amount of cilantro.  I kicked up the spice a little bit by adding some sriracha from the condiments available at our table:

Sriracha on the right, also available: chili, teriyaki, pepper, soya sauce, tamari.

The sandwich was absolutely delicious and very filling.  The flavors were a perfect balance, with no one sub topping overwhelming the others.  It is an item that I would absolutely have again, and the price makes it even more worthwhile!

As we were leaving, manager Linda provided us with cute, business-card sized take-out menus.  The website does not yet have a menu available, and their social media presence is still in the development phases, so if you want to know what's on the menu down at Dang Good, you will have to pay them a visit or send off an email.  As far as I'm aware, delivery is not currently an option.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend Dang Good, even if you are not a resident in the immediate vicinity.  It is so nice to have a vegetarian/vegan-friendly Vietnamese restaurant in Edmonton!  And while the staff still need a bit of training and guidance on the difference between these two diets, their cheerfulness and dedicated service will help them to get there.  Despite the new-opening jitters, our experience at Dang Good was a welcoming one and we will gladly do repeat business with this family-owned gem.

***UPDATE: May 19, 2013: I feel that I have to make an addendum to this post... the wonderful delicious sandwich I first enjoyed is apparently no longer a menu item at Dang Good.  I find this really disappointing as it was not only scrumptious but also one of the more affordable menu items.  Also, the last time I was there I tried the so-called vegan version of the ginger beef, and the tofu was so overcooked that it literally turned to powder in my mouth (really gross).  I haven't been back since because I've been quite disappointed that instead of them improving as time goes on and they get established, they seem to instead be going rapidly downhill, at least as far as vegan options are concerned.

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