UPDATE – December 2010: Kol3 took their subs and shu mai balls off the menu because they weren’t selling enough to ensure they were fresh all the time. Sadness. However, they have added a basa banh xeo. They also make a really good sate pho noodle soup. Banh xeo portions have also gotten much bigger and are a good value.

Kol3, CalgaryCalgary is chock full of great little Vietnamese places that serve your standard pho and bun. Kol3 tries to carve its own niche with banh xeo.

I’ve never tried these savoury crepes before. They’re made with rice flour and turmeric and then traditionally filled with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts. Banh xeo looks like a thin omelette.

Kol3’s traditional banh xeo ($9) had plump shrimp and sliced pork (you can also choose beef or chicken). It came with fresh mint, mustard leaves, basil and lettuce which you pair with a bite of banh xeo and then dip in the accompanying fish sauce. I enjoyed the added fresh kick from the herbs.

Kol3’s other banh xeo are given a modern twist. Bacon cheeseburger banh xeo is stuffed with ground beef, cheese, bacon, onion, tomato and pickles. Instead of the fish sauce, it comes with ketchup. But the fresh herbs stay the same. Jason was ready for it to be weird but it works. In fact, we would have preferred the fish sauce instead of the ketchup.

I also tried a panko basa Vietnamese sub ($9), a refreshing change from tired sate beef or chicken. The moist flaky fish had a nice panko crust. The 12-inch baguette was dressed with mayo and wasabi, along with cucumber, cilantro, carrots and onion. I was craving this again the next day.

Shu mai balls ($9) are three large fresh ground pork meatballs in a savoury broth, with a toasted baguette. That was something different too.

Kol3, CalgaryThe menu is small by design so they can change it up regularly. Kol3 is zoned for takeout right now which is why everything is served in a cardboard box or paper. They have a daily dinner special, and the owners said they’re waiting on a liquor licence.

There’s a shiny espresso machine so they can make cappuccinos etc. as well as Vietnamese coffee. I haven’t had a chance to try any yet.

This is a family affair. Two cheerful sisters, Annie and Janie, are usually at the front. The restaurant is named after Janie’s son Kole, with the E flipped to be a 3. The sisters’ parents and Janie’s husband do the cooking.

They’ve done a great job renovating the space which used to house Si Senor tacos/pizza and the short-lived Tandoori Knights. They moved the counter to the other side and painted the restaurant a bright teal. Minimalist tables and chairs are available for dining in.

To be honest, I feel the price points for the banh xeo are a tad high for the portion size — however, I can easily accept it knowing that Kol3 is in Kensington (where I’m guessing rent is higher than a Chinatown hole in the wall) and that it’s run by super friendly people.

Kol3 Restaurant, 24 12th St. NW, Calgary, (403) 263-3666. Open daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Kol3, Calgary

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