Simon Lam loves to eat. Although he isn't a trained chef, he sure knows what good food tastes like.
A Bit Of History
Golden Viet Thai is a small restaurant in downtown Kingston, that specializes in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. They first opened in 1996 at their original location on Wellington Street. In 2016, they moved to their new location on Bagot Street, where Card's Bakery used to be.
I have been to their old location as well as their new location. I remember when they were on Wellington that the owners were Vietnamese. What was particularly special was the free dessert of tapioca pudding that they offered with every entree ordered. Sadly, this extra treat is no longer offered at their new location. I suspect that the new management decided not to continue this tradition.
Inside the restaurant, you are immediately exposed to white side walls decorated with mostly Asian art, including lacquered wall hangings and decorative Chinese signs. At the back wall is a dark brown stone façade that contrasts with the white side walls. Red lanterns and Chinese tassels hang from the ceiling and on the back walls. Interspersed among the Asian art are more Western-style acrylic and oil landscape paintings. These seem to be in conflict with the Asian art and create an inconsistent theme in the interior decor. In my opinion, they should have kept it all Asian so as to match their Asian cuisine.
Tables seating four guests line the walls and window. The tabletops are bare and appear speckled grey. They have accompanying plain black metal chairs. Overall, the interior is a clean and comfortable space for you to enjoy your meal.
The menu includes a variety of popular Vietnamese and Thai dishes.
They have Chả Giò (spring rolls), Gỏi Cuốn (fresh summer rolls), Chicken and Beef Satay and Yum Kai (Thai Chicken Salad).
As for soup and soup noodle dishes, they offer Vietnamese Canh Chua (Sour Soup), Phở and Hủ Tiếu (Chicken Rice Noodle Soup) and Thai Tom Yum Soup (Hot & Sour Soup).
They have a number of noodle items including Bún Chả Giò Thịt Nướng and Pad Thai.
There are a few rice dishes worth mentioning such as Cơm Gà/Bò Xào Xã (Lemongrass Chicken or Beef), Cơm Thịt Heo (Grilled Pork) and Khai Phad Puk Ruam Mit (Thai Red Curry Chicken).
For those of us who are vegetarian, they have Pad Thai (Vegetarian Thai Noodles) and Cải Xào Tofu (Tofu with Mixed Vegetables), to name a few.
To my surprise, they also have Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Crepes). My mom only makes this once or twice a year at home, so it's a treat to have it.
The prices for most of these are reasonable and definitely affordable. Appetizers range from $4.75 to $6.75. Soup dishes range from $3.75 to $8.75. All the other entrée dishes range from $8.75 to $11.95.
Bún Chả Giò Thịt Nướng
On this particular visit, I ordered number 14, Bún Chả Giò Thịt Nướng. This is a noodle (specifically rice vermicelli) dish that comes with one spring roll, grilled pork, lettuce, sliced cucumbers, pickled carrots and chopped peanuts. It is served with a small bowl of fish sauce to season the dish. $9.95 is a fairly reasonable price to pay for it.
This is one of my favourite dishes. It can be labour-intensive to make because you have to roll the spring rolls and fry them up, grill the pork, boil the rice vermicelli, chop and slice all the vegetables, pickle the carrots and make the fish sauce. So it is definitely nice to have someone else make it for you.
The fish sauce that comes with the dish looks very plain. At home when we make it, we add chilies and garlic. Hence, I had to add the chilies that were at the table to my fish sauce at the restaurant. I poured the fish sauce with chilies all over my dish. I then mixed all the components so that the fish sauce mixed with everything.
The noodles were nice and tender and tasted just right with the fish sauce. There seemed to be a lot of lettuce and cucumber, almost as if they were using them as filler. The grilled pork was perfectly seasoned and had a nice umami flavour. I could almost sense the flavour of soy sauce and fish sauce in the grilled pork. The spring rolls were also well-done. I loved the crispness and the taste of the glass noodles and ground pork. All of these elements worked really nicely together. It was a wonderful, flavourful, great-tasting bowl of noodles.
I do have a few minor criticisms. There was a lack of aromatic herbs like mint, Thai basil or perilla that should have been in there to enhance the freshness and flavour. Although the flavour of the grilled pork was excellent, it was just slightly dry. Also, I thought the portion size was just a little small. I would have loved an extra spring roll and more vermicelli and grilled pork. Everything else was perfect!
We had two waiters serve us. The first server brought us water and the Jasmine tea that we ordered. A second waiter took our orders and brought us our food. The two didn't really bother us during the meal, except to occasionally refill our water. They both seemed to be friendly. I thought the service was prompt and efficient.
I pay particular attention to the washrooms in restaurants. The cleanliness of a restaurant's washroom reflects how sanitary they are overall and their attention to detail and you, their guest. If their washrooms are dirty and unkept, it signifies that they do not care about their cleanliness or about you.
Golden Viet Thai's washroom was very small and cramped. However, it appeared well-stocked and fairly clean. They passed my washroom test.
Know Before You Go
The Kingston and Area Public Health Unit has a website called Know Before You Go. It contains the results of inspections of restaurants, personal services, and recreational water facilities. I checked Golden Viet Thai on there to see how they did. They were in compliance with the majority of the inspection categories (6 in total). One item that they corrected during inspection was "Food Protected from Contamination." It appears they did alright on their inspection, which I'm glad to know.
My Final Verdict
Although their decor was a bit conflicting, the restaurant space was clean and appealing overall. They had a good selection of Vietnamese and Thai items to choose from. Most of the dishes were affordable. The Bún Chả Giò Thịt Nướng that I ordered was flavourful and tasty. I would come back and order it again. The service was timely and efficient. The washrooms were small but clean. Plus, they passed their health inspection. Overall, I would recommend you eat here the next time you are in Kingston.