Ask anyone what their favourite food is, and they will likely tell you a special memory tied to that dish.
I was born and raised in Toronto by Vietnamese refugees. Even though I’ve only visited Vietnam once in my lifetime, my mom’s cooking has and continues to be a gateway to a life and country I never lived in.
Fresh off the Plate is a four-part series dedicated to the restaurants that work tirelessly to bring the flavours of the past into the present and future.
This week, I sip, bite and chill my way through the menu at Rustle & Still, a cafe located in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto.
“It ties back to the whole food and coffee culture in Vietnam, where everything is so casual and relaxed,” says Rustle & Still owner Tri Ngo, who came to Canada 15 years ago as a student.
“Nowadays, people are so busy, and we wanted to create an environment where people can just take a break from it.”
Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world, and Rustle & Still proudly uses Vietnamese coffee beans.
Ngo and his wife, Hang Vu, opened up the cafe in 2018, filling up the space with beautiful plants, warm wood decor and amazing food.
Vu focuses on the food at the restaurant, crafting perfectly crunchy banh mi sandwiches that capture Vietnamese street food culture. Meanwhile, Ngo curates a menu of beverages that infuses uniquely Vietnamese flavours like pandan into its specialty lattes.
“I just wanna share with people my memory of my childhood,” said Vu, who worked as a chemist before leaving it behind to open the cafe.
“When I grew up in Vietnam, I would always grab a banh mi before going to school. Every morning, when I make sandwich (sic), this reminds me of how people make the sandwich for me at home.”
As I shared a meal with Ngo, it became very clear that this cafe was more than just a coffee shop to him. It was his passion and also an opportunity for him to capture the nostalgia of Vietnam.
Unlike the hectic energy of other coffee shops, Rustle & Still has created a zen-like escape full of delicious smells and beautiful plants.
And as a proud Vietnamese-Canadian, it has also become a special place for me to feel a little closer to a country that my parents left behind decades ago.
Rustle & Still
605 Bloor St. W.
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Liem Vu is a co-host and weather anchor on ‘Global News Morning’ in Toronto.