I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly quick reader. Not Harry
Potter and the Deathly Hallows in a day quick, but certainly speedy enough.
But that belief came in to question recently on a visit to Thanh-Thanh
Oriental Noodle House. Having been handed a hefty menu filled with numerous
pages, each outlining copious options, I settled into my comfy chair for a
Within the space of about 15 minutes, my husband and I were approached at
least seven times by three different people, each asking if we were ready
to order. I was starting to get a complex about my inferior reading skills
when I noticed that other people around us would walk in and order almost
immediately. Menus were briefly consulted, if at all, and then simply set
aside. The light bulb went on. Thanh-Thanh’s clientele must include a
lot of regulars, people who walk in already knowing what they want. Not
being a regular, I did need to read the menu.
We did place a partial order on one of the many early visits, for two
Tsingtaos ($4.45 each). Then we relaxed, leisurely sipped our light-tasting
beer and examined the menu in detail, smiling and shaking our heads
“no” whenever someone approached us. Had there been a line-up
of ravenous customers glaring at us in hopes of securing our table, I would
have felt pressured to order quickly. Only a few tables were occupied,
though, and since we weren’t encroaching upon closing time, I felt no
remorse at my apparent tardiness.
Reading the menu was only the first step. Then we had to make some
decisions. My husband always has to have beef and broccoli ($12.45)
whenever possible, so that was easy, and since I have a weakness for
veggies in a sauce of any kind, we went with stir-fried vegetables in black
bean sauce ($10.95). The big dilemma was whether to order pho (a noodle
soup) or a vermicelli bowl. This particular night seemed to call for a
vermicelli bowl and we went all out and ordered one topped with grilled
shrimp, chicken and pork and a couple of imperial rolls ($12.95). We
finished by ordering some steamed rice ($2) to soak up all the delectable
Once we ordered, things progressed quickly. A teapot, a couple of tea cups
and side plates were promptly plunked on the table. The tea was warm and
soothing; it provided a unique taste sensation when alternated with the
cold and refreshing beer. Given our surroundings, it seemed only
appropriate to be sipping such contrasting beverages.
On the surface, Thanh-Thanh gives off a modern, almost polished aura. The
clean, simple, black-and-cream décor is muted by earthy terracotta
tiles; comfy chairs incorporate all three colours, tying everything
together nicely. Tropical palm trees stretch toward the ceiling, breaking
up the uniformity of the tables. A huge Buddha graces the open room,
quietly welcoming and overseeing everything. Visually, the effect is almost
serene, if somewhat stark.
Don’t be fooled by the initial impression of tranquility. The bar,
centered at the back of the restaurant, is much like Grand Central Station.
On the surface it looks like just a bar but it serves as so much more: ice
cubes clatter, glasses clink, plates clank, everything and anything bangs.
The noise accomplished by a handful of people was quite impressive. It was
kind of amusing to watch, once I got over the shock of the din. I
couldn’t imagine how noisy it would be if the restaurant was even
close to being full.
Our beef and broccoli made its way to the table first, accompanied by a
bottle of soy sauce. The indispensable little pot of chili paste already
had a perpetual place of honour on all the tables. The platter was filled
with loads of crisp, green broccoli, tender slices of beef and a moderate
amount of runny sauce. While everything was cooked properly, the taste of
sesame oil dominated the dish.
In short order, the vermicelli bowl, accompanying fish sauce and mixed
veggies landed at our now extremely cramped table. Just as we were about to
load up our plates (most people order a vermicelli bowl for themselves but
we’re not like most people—we share and dig out what we want),
one of our servers came by and took our “light” (candle); it
never made it back. Somewhat odd, but the extra smidgen of space it freed
up came in handy.
As enormous and impressive as the vermicelli bowl looked, I was immediately
drawn to the hefty chunks of glorious broccoli, snow peas, carrots,
mushrooms, bok choy and cauliflower that made up the mixed veggies. Flecks
of tiny beans from the liberal dousing of black bean sauce could be seen
mingled throughout the colourful jumble. Perfectly cooked, tender but still
crisp, it was how veggies were meant to be eaten. I could eat this for
dinner every night.
I took a break from gorging on the veggies to claim some of the rapidly
disappearing vermicelli bowl. A couple of scoops and I had a mound of soft
slippery noodles, crisp carrots and lettuce, crunchy bean sprouts, salty
peanuts and mild green onions taking center stage on my plate. I perched a
succulent grilled shrimp and some gently charred but tender chicken and
pork on top, drizzled the whole thing with fish sauce and smiled. Soft
merged with crunchy, vibrant with mellow, salty with subdued. The
house-made fish sauce was vibrant without being overpowering; it
complemented and accented without masking and overwhelming.
Both of the imperial rolls that I had briefly glimpsed snuggled against the
side of the bowl were already being digested inside a stomach that was not
my own. I can’t personally vouch for how good they were, but their
speedy departure speaks volumes.
As we made our way to the door, I glimpsed a lucky fellow savouring an
enormous bowl of pho. Maybe that’s what I’ll order next time. I
might be a tad quicker deciding, but there are still too many tempting
options for just a brief perusal. V
Tue – Thu 11 am – 9 pm
Fri, Sat 11 am – 10 pm
Closed Sun, Mon
Thanh-Thanh Oriental Noodle House
10718 – 101 St, 426.5068