Viva Via Cafe a Restaurant Review

Sometimes being stuck in one location leads to the pleasant discovery of hidden gems that will give you reason to come back.

I had blogged last week about my short trip to L.A for a conference and being trapped due to traffic.  Well it's been one insane week with deadlines, projects and endless tasks, but I finally got a chance to sort through the pictures to load and post my review on some great places in Chinatown L.A, including a surprise corner cafe within Central plaza, off of the main street and full of character.

On my many frequent trips to Chinatown L.A I rarely explore all of Broadway, as I usually  mosey around just one block down where the market places and street vendors are.  For those of you that have never been there, one of the famous restaurants called "Foo Chow" was featured in Rush Hour 3, and they even boast this on the side of their building.  The food there has mediocre rating, and I've never stopped in, mainly because when I have the chance to head here, I always make rounds to my favorite places first.

If it's earlier in the day and I'm craving Dim Sum, then I head over to Golden Dragon. The building, both inside and outside  have this worn look to it, like it was once glossy and new but somehow the traffic, people and years just aged it.  I've never been a fan of the bathrooms either, but the food is AMAZING and so well priced!

On this particular Thursday though, parking was limited and I had already headed to the plaza to stop in at one of my favorite stores, Flock Shop.  Since they were closed and my blood sugar was plummeting, I decided to take a chance and stop by this corner cafe within the plaza called Via Cafe.

The outside of the cafe has red festive lanterns that decorate the street.  Every time I walk here, it reminds me of the level in Gears of War when Dom has to control the spotlight so that Fenix can run to turn on the lanterns so neither of them get eaten by Kryll. 

Via Cafe is small and quaint and despite the colorful vibrant exterior of the plaza, the inside is quite chic, ambient and uncharacteristic of typical Chinatown. Black walls with hits of pink cherry blossom flowers, the walls are adorned with colorful paintings, very characteristic to this artistic part of Chinatown.

The thought that kept pressing in my head was "why is such a cute and chic cafe so empty", and right when I looked at the menu I realized why.  The menu was composed of traditional Vietnamese, French influenced cuisine and the prices, though not exorbitant at all, are above the typical median pricing at every other restaurant in Chinatown.  I was worried that I had stepped into a fusion restaurant that served cuisine altered to American tastes.  Boy was I wrong.

Back in Edmonton (my hometown in Canada), a dish I frequently enjoyed from Good Morning Saigon was a Vietnamese one called "Bo Luc Lac", seasoned beef cubes with rice and onion.  Oh the nostalgia I have towards that dish and restaurant.  So imagine my surprise when I took a risk by ordering at Via Cafe and it was JUST AS GOOD as I loved and remembered.  Anyone that knows me can vouch for the fact that I'm not a beef lover at all, but this dish is one of those dishes, that I'd travel hundreds of miles for.  The dish tasted like traditional Vietnamese food, polished up with fresh ingredients and inviting plating.

What topped off this experience for me was the music selection playing in the background.  It was the type of music that made me want to forget driving back to San Diego, hide from the rain and traffic and just enjoy a glass of wine while reading.  Two of the songs that caught my attention was Tom Waits - All the World is Green, and Federico Aubele - Un Lugar.  (see the videos below)

My genuine belief is that when you go out to eat, you're not just looking to feed your body but an actual complete experience.  Many times I'll disregard a restaurant until I hear a striking strum of a guitar or a familiar jazz chorus, and I'll take the bait into the alluring environment.  I usually don't care for the fortune cookies aside from eating them, but this particular fortune was very fitting to my frame of mind at that moment.  My entire trip was about planning my future on my personal business ventures and more, so it was a nice to see a message that was confirming a positive outlook.

Via Cafe will be added to my list of favorite places to escape to whenever I take a weekend trip up north.  I used to do a lot of weekend getaways and I think this year will include more of those again.

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