Restaurant Review #39: Thanh My, Westminster, Orange County

Bun with charbroiled beef

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a small automobile

One random Sunday afternoon I decided to go to Fullerton, just for the hell of it. What did I finally buy a car for, if not to enjoy it? Next question: Why would anyone go out of their way to go to Fullerton? Well, now I know. They wouldn't. Fortunately, Westminister, and Little Saigon, were not too far away, so I made a stop at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. This is another one of those gems that I found (several years ago, before I even lived here) simply by driving down the street and picking the most crowded restaurant to eat at. Funny how that doesn't work at all for American restaurants. Cheesecake Factory, anyone?

Imperial roll appetizer

Letting the day go by...

Thanh My is populated entirely by Vietnamese folk, most of whom will not utter a word of English during their meals, and white, white me. It's a super casual atmosphere-less place, like almost all Vietnamese restaurants. The menu is extensive. The food is cheap and good. Though I have been here several times before, this particular trip was inspired largely by a desire to see what the big deal is about pho. I've liked Vietnamese food for several years now, but tend to stick to bun and tofu dishes (when they exist). What's the big deal about a bowl of broth called pho (more or less pronounced "fauh")?

Qu'est-ce que c'est?

If you have never been to a Vietnamese restaurant before, particularly a real one, you may ask yourself, what is all of this stuff? Well, that's what I'm here for. Bun (first photo) is a bowl of vermicelli noodles and something else, such as charbroiled beef or pork (or perhaps tripe or something else I am unwilling to eat). There will often be an imperial roll or 2 (like a small eggroll) in your bowl as well. There are also veggies, like sliced carrot, and herbs, like mint, and then you'll get a bowl of delectable sweet and sour fish sauce to pour over the top. Note that the imperial rolls contain pork, though from reading the menu description, you'd think they were vegetarian. There are a few vegetarian dishes on the menu, but they aren't very exciting, and consist only of noodles and/or veggies (no tofu). I've found that when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, you're better off being a carnivore. In my semi-vegetarian opinion, charbroiled beef with lemongrass (pictured below) is one of the best reasons to eat meat (aside from hamburgers with blue cheese, of course).

Pho is the biggest bowl of soup you've ever seen, renowned for the rich, complex flavor of it's homemade broth. It contains vermicelli noodles, and whatever kind of meat you've ordered. The meat is cut into very thin slices which are actually cooked by the broth, so they may arrive at your table still pink. Pho is served with a plate of mint leaves, bean sprouts, and a lime wedge, all of which can be added to the soup at your discretion. You can also add hot sauce, though I wouldn't recommend it, because it really covers up the flavor of the broth.

There are also noodle dishes, and crushed rice dishes, which will be something meaty with a side of rice. I really like putting the aforementioned fish sauce on my crushed rice.

And you may ask yourself, How do I eat this?

I like to use the ceramic spoons (usually already on the table, in a container off to the side) to slurp the broth, and chopsticks to eat the noodles. I imagine this is how you're supposed to eat pho.

Pho pho pho pho pho pho pho pho far far better

I ordered the sliced beef pho, and indeed, the broth was quite flavorful, and better than what I've had on the Westside, of course, but I just don't think this is a dish I will ever be passionate about. And yes, I've been waiting to use that pho lyric for a long time.

On another visit, I had the charbroiled beef bun. It was amazing, and I don't even like meat very much. The beef was sweet and tender. Next visit, I'll probably order this again, or a noodle dish. Hell, this place is so cheap, I ought to order both. Many dishes are only $6. They also have lots of interesting drinks, and the ever-delectable Vietnamese coffee, of course. Do they have soursop shakes? They may. If so, I'd recommend one.

You start a conversation, you can't even finish it

I will admit, sometimes when something is good, I don't say much about it. I just want you to go eat it!

We are vain and we are blind

Where is my check? Can't they see that I'm done with my meal? What is up with this service? Ok, here's the deal: when you're done with your meal, just take that tiny slip of green paper with the number on it that has been sitting on your table the entire time up to the cash register by the door. This arrangement might mean that if you need a to-go box, you'll be waiting for a million years. We had a hard time getting any service once our food was on the table (I wondered if it was because most of the servers passing by perhaps weren't comfortable with English-alas, I speak no Vietnamese). And don't be alarmed by the security cameras. Last time I checked, Westminster was not a hub of thuggish activity. But then, I live on the Westside, so what do I know?

Charbroiled beef with lemongrass

Large meal for two, with drinks (get the lemonade, or the soursop shake!), tax, tip, and leftovers: $27.65

Thanh My Restaurant
9553 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683-5904

FYI: On my last visit, I stumbled across another Thanh My, in a different location, in a pinkish building, and with very few patrons. Is this an expansion of the original or a separate restaurant trying to soak up business based on the popularity of the place I've just reviewed? I don't know. Just make sure you eat at the right Thanh My. Or be adventurous and go to the other one, and let me know how it goes.

Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The last time I ate there was late at night when they where about to close. They started shaking out the floor mats in the restaurant while I was still eating and turned my appetite off.