639 Victoria Ave. Regina, SK.
 
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MILU'S FINDING ITS NICHE IN REGINA

David Ramsey for the Leader Post

There are restaurants that are worth visiting simply because they offer the unusual. What makes you want to return to them is the quality of food. My primary reason for stopping at Milu's Fresh Rolls and Subs, a new Victoria Avenue eatery that opened its doors in August, was to try its subs and fresh rolls. Based on my experience there, I will be returning in the future. Milu's isn't a typical takeout sub shop - its menu features items such as banh mi, bubble tea, fresh rice noodle bowls and rice plates.

I was most interested in trying my first banh mi, a Vietnamese sub with a strong French colonial influence. Banh mi translates as "cake made from bread" but the term is commonly used to refer to subs made with a French baguette and fillings that include various types of meats and vegetables, most with an East Asian or Vietnamese origin or preparation, and other uncommon ingredients such as cilantro and pickled daikon. Banh mi subs are relatively new to Regina but are popular around the world, especially in areas with large Vietnamese expatriate populations.

On our recent visit, we ordered Milu's ultimate banh mi subs, which, along with fresh rolls, are the restaurant's top sellers. Our subs were made with in-house cold cuts, along with a variety of vegetables and cilantro. I would recommend trying one, although there are far more adventuresome choices such as head cheese pate and sardine and tomato sauce. Other sub choices include the Buddha's vegetarian, shredded pork and beef satay and all are priced between $7.50 and $8.50. While the subs are a meal in themselves, we also decided to sample Milu's fresh rolls, which were also very good.

I also ordered my first bubble tea, which has its origins in Taiwan but is popular in Vietnam and other East Asian countries. Made with powdered milk, ice and a choice of flavours from coconut to avocado, the ingredients are mixed together in a blender to form a drink with the consistency of a milk shake. But what make bubble tea a most distinctive beverage are the tapioca starch balls and seaweed-based jellies that are added before serving. They sink to the bottom of the glass and are sucked up through a large straw served with the drink. It is an odd combination - a bit like drinking a slushie and gummy bears (but without all the sugar) - and one that takes some getting used to. My preferred choice for a beverage at Milu's is its excellent iced Vietnamese coffee, which has a strong and distinctive coffee flavour and just the right amount sweetness.

Milu's is located in the building that used to be home to the Romanian Club. The sub shop is one of four businesses to open in the building, which includes a bar, a nail shop and a hair salon. Partners Luanne Truong and Michael Lee are also in the process of restoring the club's former large banquet hall, which they plan to use to host large gatherings. "We had a vision for the building," says Truong, who has 20 years of experience in the restaurant business and wanted to open a food outlet that offers good, fresh and healthy food for people in a hurry. "We are so busy we forget to feed ourselves good food," says Truong, who was born in Vietnam but moved to Canada at age 10. "I grew up in a tropical country where we go to the market to pick up fresh stuff and cook for the meal that day. Here we don't do that anymore. "If you are tired and you don't want anything heavy, you can have a fresh roll. What I like about this food is that it is very light."

To date, Truong says business has been good and is impressed that people in Regina are willing to check out new places, including those that offer less common foods. "A lot of people used to be very narrow about food," she says. "Now, you see a lot of small, ethnic restaurants. People are much more open about food." And that includes the bubble tea. "It's like a dessert in many places. It's very popular for us," she says. "What's special about bubble tea is the tapioca and the jellies. That makes it fun for people. If you think in a positive way, it's a nice texture in your mouth. It's soft and chewy and slippery and really nice." Milu's Fresh Rolls and Subs is located at 639 Victoria Ave.


MILU MILIEU; RESTAURANT IS EXPANDING IN MID-MAY TO PROVIDE EVEN MORE VIETNAMESE CUISINE

CJ Katz for the Leader Post

Come mid-May, the popular takeout spot that sells healthy fresh rolls and foot-long Vietnamese subs is opening Pho Milu's next door. Located on the east side of the building that houses Milu's takeout and Lulu lounge, Pho Milu's will be a 30-to 40-seat, 750-square-foot (70-square-metre) café serving authentic Vietnamese pho (pronounced 'fuh') soup along with the entire Milu fresh roll and sub menu. And if a soup spot isn't enough, there will also be a chocolate shop in the same location offering specialty award-winning chocolates by 'Les chocolats Martine' from Quebec.

Milu's Fresh Rolls & Subs opened over two years ago and has been more successful than owner Luanne Truong ever imagined. "I love food, and my passion is to make Vietnamese food." When she first opened, she paired up with the owner of Lulu's, Michael Lee, to create Milu, an amalgamation of their two names. The small 350-square-foot (32.5-squaremetre) takeout spot started with fresh rolls chock full of salad, shrimp, pork, beef and chicken, as well as traditional Vietnamese subs and bubble teas. The menu quickly expanded to include noodle bowls and rice plates. Everything is made from fresh ingredients and to order. Truong. a couturier by trade, and who was the front-of-thehouse manager for her husband Steve Quach's Peking House on Rose Street for 20 years. insists on freshness. "We marinate the pork for our barbecue rice plate ($9.50) in lemon grass and garlic." It's served with her own marinated daikon radish and carrots, oil marinated onions, fresh tomato and cucumber, along with a helping of steamed rice. She also makes her own mayonnaise, cooks the meat from raw cuts, and pickles her own vegetables.

Prepared to order, the fresh rolls ($7 to $8) are made with ricepaper wrappers. What makes Milu's so special is how Truong infuses the water with coconut and bay leaves to add flavour to the wrappers. Then, each is stuffed with fresh lettuce, shrimp, pork, beef, or chicken and rolled with pieces of freshly cut cucumber, rice noodles, pickled daikon and cilantro sprigs. Each order, which has two or three rolls, is served with a side of hot chili paste and in-house black bean sauce made from sautéed garlic, reconstituted bean paste, a pinch of sugar and sesame seed paste (not peanut butter). Two rolls is satisfying and plenty filling. "Fresh rolls are so easy. You can eat them any time. for breakfast, lunch or as an appetizer before dinner. They are great after the game or a movie," says Truong, who came to Canada when she was 10 years old. She and her sister were among the many who fled the country after the Vietnam War.

Vietnamese subs ($8.50 to $8.95) are another popular item. Why a sub with Vietnamese food? Although bread is not native to Vietnam, the baguette was introduced by the French during Vietnam's colonial period. Many Vietnamese dishes are similar to French cooking," says Truong. "The sub is French with Vietnamese ingredients." The shop boasts eight different varieties, including Milu's Ultimate with side pork, which has been rolled, marinated, slowly cooked and thinly sliced along with Truong's own in-house cooked chicken and ham. There are several vegetarian options, including the Buddha with deep fried tofu and meaty options, such as lemon grass chicken.

Noodle bowls ($9.95), like the flavourful and filling beef satay, and rice plates ($9.50) are also on the menu, along with various soups, pork steamed buns ($3), French pork pastries ($2.50), and over 40 flavours of bubble tea with tapioca pearls ($5). New drinks include the fresh avocado ($7) and the very refreshing Milu's special ice tea ($3.50/$4) made with black tea, strawberry purée, some tapioca pearls and basil seeds.

Truong, who also owns Chaelu Nails and Beauty Spa in the same building, is now set to expand her food business. "Pho Milu is an extension of Milu," says Truong, who now owns Milu's outright. After many requests by customers to open a sit-down place, she's finally taking the plunge. The main attraction will be the pho soup - a popular street food in Vietnam. Its base is a rich flavourful broth to which rice noodles, fresh julienned vegetables and meat are added. A bowlful will fill you for the rest of the day. And based on the rest of the menu, you can bet that Truong's soup will be fabulous. It's a blessing to have access to healthy food on the go. Milu's has parking in front and at the side of the building. And now with the addition of a pho soup place, the eating out in Regina just got even better!

 

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