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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Daily 7:00am–8:00pm

Features Kid-friendly, outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Credit cards None
Reservations Not accepted

Bellaire Chinatown
11210 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX
(281) 564-0419
Thien Thanh
You’re here for one reason: otherworldly banh cuon

Read enough restaurant websites and you’ll see the phrase “…will transport you to a different place” tossed around like a vermicelli noodle in a bowl. Many claim such dramatic otherworldly experiences, but few deliver; those that do, like Thien Thanh, seem to do it effortlessly and humbly. This dilapidated shop is convincing despite (or perhaps due to) being bereft of bells and whistles: its fading green tables are barely lit, and lingering scents of its house-blended nuoc cham (fish sauce) really do transport us off of the streets of Bellaire Chinatown into a dining district of Saigon.

Many Vietnamese restaurants focus their excellence into one singular, spectacular dish, and Thien Thanh’s is banh cuon, a multitude of intensely flavored fillings wrapped in a thin steamed rice crêpe. There are serviceable soups and vermicelli bowls, but these are beside the point. English is a challenge here, so order by number. Shrimp and crab are good, but we favor #11, banh cuon thit nuong, with delicate slices of heavily charred pork inside a diaphanous warm rice wrapper. It’s got that wonderful aroma of fresh mint and cilantro; dip it in nuoc cham, with its sharp umami kick, and alternate between bites of crunchy bean sprouts, and you may as well have purchased a plane ticket to Vietnam. Except, happily, without the pat-downs and leg cramps.

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