Restaurant Thanh Long


Restaurant Thanh Long, located just off Honore-Mercier by Place d'Youville, is an excellent place to get Vietnamese food at reasonable prices. I wish I had a more poetic way to put that, but I don't. I was too busy enjoying my meal to take decent notes.

The restaurant is small and ambient, a subdued brick interior tastefully decorated and softly lit. Paintings featuring scenes of rice paddies and Halong Bay adorn the walls. A seat is available next to the window, where a sliver of the orange lights of Charlesbourg shimmer in the distance, the growling of the buses passing on the street outside humbled to a gentle murmur through the glass.

Service is prompt. The menu includes a variety of Vietnamese staples, as well a few Chinese and Thai specialties. I choose the "Grosse soupe Tonkinoise" with chicken, and fried Chinese-style wontons to start.
The appetizers arrive quickly. Presentation is simple: five curiously thin wontons atop a bed of vegetables. The wonton skins are made of crisp leaves of batter, caramel brown, containing tiny morsels of pork and fried vegetables and just a hint of fish sauce. Served with a dark, tart plum sauce, the wontons are exquisite and leave you wanting more, as any good starter should.

Having ravished the wontons, I lean back to take in the environment of the restaurant. Although small (it couldn't possibly seat more than 30), its interior is cozy and familiar. Vietnamese love songs play quietly in the background, faintly sad and hopeful at the same time. Smatterings of conversation emerge from the kitchen between opening doors and the passing of customers.

The waiter arrives with the main course, Tonkin soup, or pho. Pho is perhaps the traditional Vietnamese meal. A rice-noodle soup served hot with thinly-shaved meat, usually chicken or beef, pho can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and is reputed for its rejuvenating qualities. It is also the hallmark of any reputable Vietnamese restaurant.

Thanh Long does not disappoint. The broth is thick, hearty, and perfectly hot. The soup is not weighed down by a disproportionate amount of noodles, and the chicken is plentiful and delicious. What speaks about this dish is the vibrancy of the vegetables: the fresh green onions, ginger, and cilantro positively sing with every spoonful, an energetic harmony of flavors, as if the recipe included the essence of life itself. This is the best meal I've had in weeks, maybe months. I scan the room before tilting my bowl to reach the very last bit.

Throughout my meal the service is efficient and conscientious. There is a noticeable absence of hoisin or chili sauce for the pho, although it is hardly missed. Also noteworthy: the waiter asks if I would like chopsticks for my meal. Who could imagine destroying such a work of art with an instrument as clumsy a fork?

I finish eating with immense satisfaction, and go to the front to pay. A chat with a waitress reveals that unlike most other Vietnamese-owned restaurants in the area, this one is composed of Vietnamese from the North of the country, where pho originated. The total comes to $13.57. I tip $2.00.
Restaurant Thanh Long provides excellent, authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a relaxed environment close to the Old City of Quebec. The menu also includes several tables d'hote that include a starter, main, dessert and coffee for about twenty dollars. Bring-your-own wine service is available free of charge.

Budget: Medium