This is another backlogged post so keep that in consideration. The dishes should be more or less the same, but the restaurant has since moved to the current location.
Back in the day, I scoured Urbanspoon for new or undiscovered restaurants in Red Deer. It was exciting as you never know what’s available here. On the web site, I usually list the restaurants by the most recent additions so that I could catch new restaurants in town. One such restaurant that popped up was Thap Ba Vietnamese Restaurant.
Looking at the map, it was in the industrial area at the time and that peaked my interest as I have never driven around that area before. Of course, these days it’s so much easier to find, having moved to Gaetz Avenue across from Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Back in the day, I had to use my GPS to get me there. My wife and I went for an early dinner and on arrival, the area was predictably dead quiet.
Thap Ba is run by a Vietnamese family and they originally chose that location as their attempt to test the water. Speaking with the daughter, we found out that her mother was the cook and the recipes were personal family recipes.
During lunch, they relied on workers in the surrounding area and in the evening, relied on delivery. After a period of success, they informed us that they were moving to their current location so they can continue to grow their business. I am happy to see that they are succeeding as this speaks to the growth of our city. Of course, as residents of Red Deer, we benefit from having more restaurant choices.
Needless to say, in the original location, parking was plenty. On entering the restaurant, the area was spacious and there was another seating area in the second floor. We never did eat up there as we like chatting with the family.
We took our time to look over the menu, particularly my wife who is very particular about Vietnamese food.
My wife decided to order the Pork Chop on Rice which is pretty self-explanatory. She also requested a fried egg on the side. It’s one of her go-to dishes.
The pork chop arrived thin, but massively wide, covering half the plate. It was grilled bone-in and resulted in a delicious charred flavor to go with the soy sauce and lemon grass glaze. For the price, you get quite a bit of meat.
The egg was cooked nicely and, for my wife, is a necessity for her to enjoy this dish. As for the veggies on the side, we were surprised to see tomato slices as tomatoes are not commonly used in traditional Vietnamese dishes. Perhaps, a little fusion for the western palate?
The plain rice was cooked well and almost a given at any Asian restaurant.
Fish sauce-based broth was served on the side and my wife used plenty of it to add umami to the dish.
I ordered my usual Vietnamese dish which was the Grilled Beef and Spring Roll Vermicelli and requested no bean sprouts. The usual ingredients were listed: beef, spring roll (technically, egg roll by Vietnamese standards), lettuce, and cucumbers; One odd addition was dried onions.
The first thing I looked for on the beef was evidence of actual grilling. I definitely got a whiff of the BBQ grill. On taste, the charred flavor was unmistakable. This doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, I have had the unfortunate experience of receiving a (microwaved?) plain looking piece of meat that was described as “grilled” before. Taste-wise, the beef was flavorful, but it’s the charred flavor that you focus on.
The egg roll was freshly deep-fried, coming out piping hot with flaky skin. Inside, it had significant amounts of carrots with minimal meat (common practice).
Peanuts were sprinkled on top which is always welcomed and appreciated. Dried onions further added texture and were surprisingly complimentary to the dish.
Onto the vegetables, I found the cucumber and lettuce fresh and crunchy. Great news: no bean sprouts. Because of its abundant usage in Vietnamese Cuisine, adding bean sprouts is almost second nature to the chefs so often times, despite my request, they forget. Kudos to the chef and the daughter for the effort!
I had also asked for another cup of fish sauce-based broth as one is never enough for me. I admit that I am the kind of guy that likes to clean his plate and with soups, noodles, etc., I drink the remaining liquid to the last drop. As I did it again this time, you can tell it was a decent fish sauce-based broth. Speaking of fish sauce-based broth, I have never had a bad one and do wonder maybe the consistent flavor is mostly derived from the mass produced bottled fish sauce.
The daughter also offered us a bowl of their Homemade Soup to sample.
It is a clear veggie soup with white and green onions. It had a clean taste and would be a nice palate cleanser.
Fortune cookies came with the bill.
And this was my fortune.
This was the first time we met the family and looking back, we are so happy to see that their business has come so far and is continuing to thrive.