On one of our regular visits to Thap Ba, we decided to explore the menu a little bit after it met our expectations the first time.
My wife requested an Iced Tea which came with a slice of lime instead of lemon (lemons are never used in Vietnamese cuisines).
We started with their Hot Wings which were deep-fried chicken wings dosed in hot sauce.
The Hot Wings arrived piled up like a pyramid. It doesn’t take much effort, but the little details do show the care and pride they have in their food. The skin was very crispy, likely helped by a little dusting with flour before frying. Inside, the meat was moist and juicy thanks to the sizeable pieces used. Cost may be a little more than Wing Wednesday wings (often tiny and dried out), but the size and quality makes up for it. The wings were plenty covered with hot sauce, but did not overwhelm our palates. More importantly, despite being soaked in hot sauce, the skin remained crispy.
We also ordered their Vietnamese Beef Satay Submarine (Bánh Mì). The bánh mì, in addition to satay beef, had pickled carrot and daikon strips, fresh cucumbers slices, and cilantro.
The bun used was a bit denser than we preferred though nothing seems to compare to the ones that we had in Vietnam. I don’t know how they do it there, but in Vietnam, the buns are crispy without being hard while airy and light inside. The ones we keep running into here seem to be harder on the outside and much denser inside.
The beef was flavorful though I wished there was more. It was tender and provided the warmth contrast to the other cold ingredients.
The pickled carrot and daikon strips provided a balance of acidity and sweetness to the bánh mì. Together with the fresh cucumbers, they gave the bánh mì a fresh crunch and lightened the grease from the satay beef.
My wife ordered my usual go-to dish, the Grilled Beef and Spring Roll Vermicelli. We had this during our first visit so for our experience with the dish the first time, please read that post. The only difference this time was that bean sprouts were left in as my wife enjoys them.
After mixing all the ingredients together with the fish sauce-based broth, it was ready to be eaten. The grilled beef was tender and had plenty of charred flavor while the fresh lettuce and cucumber balanced out the grease. The egg roll and the dried onion bits were crispy which added another dimension of crunch to the dish. The vermicelli was easily broken which seemed to indicate that they were ready-made rather than made-to-order. Bringing everything altogether, the fish sauce-based broth packed the umami punch.
I ended up ordering my wife’s go-to dish, the Pork Chop on Rice, but without the requested egg on the side (see previous visit post for details). I know that is how the dish is usually eaten in Vietnam, but I find the egg inhibiting.
The dish came with a bed of rice underneath 2 huge pieces of bone-in pork chops that almost covered the entire plate. We almost never finish this dish as it can feed the biggest of guys. The pork chop was grilled which resulted in a nice charred flavor and paired well with the lemongrass and soy sauce glaze overtop.
The rice was cooked perfectly as expected while the cucumbers and tomato slice gave some lightness and crunch to the dish.
All around, both of these go-to dishes were consistently good. Is it me or does anyone else noticed that in a number of Vietnamese dishes, the same basic ingredients are used to create different dishes.
Thap Ba is a family-run restaurant that we are glad to support. They may not have the interior design budget like the heavyweight chains around, but they carved a good niche in the food industry for themselves. More importantly, you feel good about supporting your fellow local Red Deerian.