Last year I wrote about my two favorite Vietnamese restaurants for pho and banh mi sandwiches–Paris Café Sandwich Shop and Pho Saigon. Although I still love these two places, in fairness, I have to admit that lately I have been going to Thien An at least once a week for my Vietnamese fix.
Thien An is located in Midtown at 2611 San Jacinto, in a newly-constructed building:
Inside, the bustling restaurant is spacious and bright, with ample parking (which can be a rarity in Midtown):
Start with an order of crispy fried Vietnamese eggrolls to share (it’s up to you whether to roll them in the accompanying lettuce leaves):
The pho is clean and fresh-tasting, not oily like some others I’ve had. The flavorful broth is not as dark and complex as that at Pho Saigon, but is extremely satisfying in its own right. The soup is accompanied by a generous plate of herbs, limes, bean sprouts, and jalapenos. There’s the usual list of meats, chicken, and shrimp that you can choose to add to your pho, although I usually opt for tofu. As at most places I’ve been to, the small bowl is ample.
The banh mi sandwich, at $3.25, is a great bargain. My favorite is the shredded chicken, which consists of mostly white meat chicken, with lots of crisp veggies piled on top.
After ogling the monster-sized banh xeo crepes being whisked past our table, I finally tried one. The crepe is made with coconut milk, which gives it a faint sweetness, and bulges with its stuffing of pork, shrimp, onions, and bean sprouts. It’s accompanied by a plate of herbs and vegetables, and dipping sauce. To eat it, you tear off a piece of the crepe, fold some of the herbs and vegetables inside, and dip it in the sauce (at least I think this is how you eat it — it didn’t come with a tutorial). This is a fun dish, meant for sharing. I almost wish we hadn’t tried it, because it was already hard enough to choose between the pho and banh mi.
The lightning-speed service at Thien An (on most occasions) makes it a good place for lunch during the work week. Although there’s table service, you’ll need to queue up and pay at the counter.
See those two plastic bags in front of the register? While you’re paying, treat yourself to a bag of delicate, crunchy, beautiful lotus blossom cookies. You know, for later:
I’m fascinated by these cookies, which never last long in my house. They’re fried, using an intricate mold:
You can get one of your own molds at Amazon
OK, I’ve shown you mine, now you show me yours — where’s your favorite Vietnamese restaurant?