Despite my regular trips to Atlanta, I can never keep track of everything that’s happening around the city, especially Buford Highway. To keep me up to date, I have a regular rotation of Atlanta based bloggers that I follow; one of those is Eat Buford Highway. With a simple mission of exploring all the ethnic culinary bounty that Buford Highway has to offer, Eat Buford Highway does a little of the culinary legwork for me.
With this visit to Atlanta coming to a swift conclusion, I needed lunch before heading out. After a thanksgiving of rich, European based dishes, I was in the mood for the clean flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. There was just one problem. I knew if I went to Pho Dai Loi #2, I’d be full and completely satisfied, but I’d be in the beginning stages of a rut. There are so many places left to try on Buford Highway, that I felt like I was almost cheating myself. That’s when Eat Buford Highway came into play. He too was looking for somewhere new on Buford and he came across Thien Thanh. With a lunch destination in mind, I was soon on the road to a bowl of pho.
Situated in the same strip mall as Chef Liu and Bo Bo Garden, Thien Thanh is smack dab in the middle of the shopping center. Unfortunately, it’s in the middle and the entrance is set back from the parking lot, thus Thien Thanh blends in to the background. Location issues notwithstanding, once I was inside and got over the disconcerting effect of the infinity mirrors, I chose a seat and started looking through the usual suspects on the menu.
Even though the section titled Mon Nhau intrigued me, I decided to save that for another visit. For this lunch, I was going with my litmus test standards, pho dac biet and cha gio.
This order of cha gio was distinctly different from the offering at Pho Dai Loi # 2. It was smaller and appeared more homemade.
A little on the greasy side, there was a nice combination of meat and veggies inside each eggroll. Actually the real standout in the order of cha gio was the nuoc cham. At Thien Thanh, the nuoc cham is heavy on the fish sauce and is quite potent. It’s a great compliment to the cha gio but still potent.
As usual, before I could finish the cha gio, my bowl of pho arrived.
There are the usual ingredients in this pho dac biet; sirloin, flank, steak, brisket, tendon, tripe, and beef meatballs all make an appearance.
With a nice broth as a base, there’s a fair amount of green onion and cilantro in the bowl, but not enough to overpower the beefy flavors.
In this particular bowl of pho, the beef is a little on the fatty side and sliced thin, not razor thin, but thinner than the rough, hand cut slices I saw in Birmingham.
As for the tripe and tendon, the tripe was thin and chewy and the tendon blended into the soup. Instead of big chunks of soft tendon, there were a few pieces that I struggled to find.
When it comes to garnish, Thien Thanh covers the bases with basil, bean sprouts, jalapenos, and lime. After doctoring the pho with the usual amounts of fish sauce, hoisin, and sriracha, I was quite satisfied with the results. This pho dac biet wasn’t an excellent example of the breed, but it was passable and satisfying.
It just wouldn’t be a meal at a Vietnamese restaurant without some bubble tea, well at least that’s what I think.
The pearls were the real downside to this dessert. I couldn’t tell if they were uncooked or extremely old but they weren’t chewy and gelatinous, they were small, hard, and cut into chunks. As far as flavor, I was surprised at the Almond bubble tea. It was somewhere between a virgin Amaretto freeze and drinking Marzipan dough.
While paying my bill, I found out some interesting tidbits about Thien Thanh. It’s only recently that they began serving a full menu. Apparently beforehand, they were just a coffee and tea house. Another unique feature of Thien Thanh is they’re open 24 hours. Even though the pho was just above mediocore, Thien Thanh sets itself apart from the rest with its hours. Where else can you get pho and cha gio at 3 am? At the very least, I’m interested in exploring the rest of their menu, particularly the Mon Nhau section, but that will have to wait for another trip.