Parle’s fluorescent blue exterior stands out from the harsh gray of busy Dalhousie Street and seduces customers with its bright colors and cheerful appearance. Once inside it somehow looks even more cheerful. The interior ticks all the boxes of a cool, modern, “Instagrammable” restaurant. There’s a plant wall in the corner, a stylish sitting area decorated with chic bamboo chairs, a bicycle hanging from one of the walls, dozens of umbrellas hanging from the ceiling and a pink neon sign in the center of the restaurant that reads “Feed me banh”. mi and tell me I am beautiful.” The whole area is seemingly tailor-made for photo ops.
Parle started out in the early days of the pandemic as a venture called Viet Fresh by owner David Wen, but operated under an umbrella company called Casper Kitchen (I was initially very confused by the number of different names used for one restaurant). Casper Kitchen riffs off the industry term “haunted kitchen,” meaning a self-contained kitchen is all about takeout and delivery. What made Casper Kitchen unique was that it wasn’t just a takeout restaurant, but more of an umbrella company with numerous restaurant brands working together and operating under the same roof. The Casper Kitchen brand included Viet Fresh, as well as Banh Mi Bros, Old’s BBQ and Fried Chicken For the Seoul.
With the shutdowns and periodic restrictions on indoor dining over the past two years, the Casper Kitchen brand has been able to achieve tremendous success thanks to its delivery-focused model, which has allowed Viet Fresh to “go solo” and open their own dining venue, Parle, which in opened its doors in February.
Unfortunately my partner and I came to the restaurant at an inconvenient time between the lunch and dinner rush hours and therefore were unable to experience Parle at its liveliest. We joined some couples enjoying their late lunch in the funky space and were instantly lulled by the quiet low-fi music in the background. Our senses were confused by the vibrant decor of the restaurant and the energetic atmosphere that accompanied it.
When the food arrived, we were immediately awakened from our daze. The spring rolls and wontons were perfectly crispy and full of flavour, accompanied by a delicious sweet chilli sauce. However, the real stars of Parle are the soups, namely the pho with its rich stock, tender meat and aromatic herbs. The menu also offers many other classic South Asian dishes, such as banh mi sandwiches, vermicelli bowls, and pad thai, along with a number of vegetarian options.
As for drinks, the menu is currently free of alcoholic drinks, but a bar with wine glasses above it in the corner of the restaurant suggests that this will change in the near future. An exciting cocktail list with some craft beer and wine would complement the colorful decor of the restaurant and make Parle even more hip and exciting.
Like any artist who breaks away from the band and delves into a solo project, Parle may need some time to establish itself fully under its own brand name, but its exciting menu and lively atmosphere have already shown a lot of promise. I’m excited to return at a busier time and see which direction they head next.
Read more about Parle on their website and Instagram.