Vietnamese rice wraps that are perfect for sharing
Not so long ago, Don Alfonso’s was replaced with a new restaurant called Rice Wrap. The previous location served authentic Spanish fare while the new place serves Vietnamese. Along with the ever-present pho, the menu features rice wraps. These do-it-yourself-style fresh spring rolls are as tasty as they are challenging to put together, but they are worth every bit of effort.
We started things off with an order of fried shrimp. Coated in a puffy layer of batter, these shrimp got a double dose of spicy with the accompanying dip – a black pepper-laden sriracha sauce. If you can’t take heat, you’d better steer clear. The hot and sour soup came with more plump shrimp, loads of fresh mint, bean sprouts, celery and pineapple. The broth had a lovely tang but it was the mint that elevated the flavours beyond the ordinary.
The rice wrap platter was pretty substantial for just $11.95. The platter comes with your choice of a list of items, including grilled pork, beef and chicken. I opted for grilled meatballs, a crisp spring roll, and a piece of sugarcane wrapped with shrimp. Shredded carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts, sprigs of mint, cold rice noodles, peanuts, green onions and fresh leaf lettuce were also heaped alongside the proteins. A small bowl of tart nuoc cham dipping sauce rounded out the mix.
Putting the rice wraps together is a bit of a trick. It’s kind of like putting together a burrito, only a lot more frustrating for beginners. The softened rice wraps arrive on stacks of webbed plastic discs.
It’s best to keep these delicate wraps on the discs and bring the disc to your plate if you want to build your roll. These things are stickier than cling film and any attempt to remove the wrap from the plastic disc will only leave you cursing up a storm. Over-stuffing is similarly problematic.
The sizzling ginger squid with onions and peppers came with a mildly flavoured sweet sauce. Plenty of green peppers, chunky pieces of onion and waffle-cut carrots were stir-fried alongside baby squid. The plate made a dramatic entrance, still steaming from the oven, its sticky sauce violently bubbling over onto the table. A coffee sherbet drink cooled things down, tasting like a frosty iced cappuccino with a more intense coffee flavour.
The wraps were the clear favourite of the meal. They are easily shared, making them an ideal meal for a casual midweek dinner date.
434 Bank St.
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