Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thanh Nhi

A fellow local blogger and Tweeter, Foodie is the New Forty, had recently posted pictures of her lunch at Thanh Nhi, a Vietnamese place up on Lamar, just before Rundberg. Not my normal stomping grounds, but I had to run an errand up that way, so why waste a trip?

Must admit I pretty much had exactly what my blogger friend had. We started with an order of pork paste spring rolls. So a long, grilled piece of pork paste (I'll liken it to a pate), and a crunchy cigar-like thing, that I'll guess is a tightly rolled eggroll wrapper that's fried; lettuce, and lots of mint. Fabulous flavor and especially the texture! I loved the crunchy part! These were served with a peanut sauce that I'd deem okay, but nothing special. The little green onion tails sticking out the ends must be either their signature way of making them, or simply, how it's done.
And then the $3.49 grilled pork bahn mi. I was very tempted by the pork SKIN bahn mi, and I tried asking the very nice waitress about it, but our languages didn't quite connect. So in the front of the picture is the grilled pork one, and the back is the pork paste. The pork was very nice, though not quite as char-grilled as I like my pork; great assortment of fresh cilantro, jalapenos, cucumber and a few carrots on it. The French bread had a nice crust, but it was still a soft bread to chew, didn't tear up the roof of your mouth.
I can't believe this thing is only $3.49!!! Got to be one of the best deals in town! So for two people -- one app, two bahn mis, and two Vietnamese coffees, it was $16. They had some nice looking noodle bowls on the menu, and there were some Vietnamese people getting take out. All in all it was a bargain meal that was fresh and flavorful.

When Foodie is the New Forty posted about Thanh Nhi last week, I looked at their web page which had limited info, but still had info. Looks like that site has just expired, so if you want to go, they're located at 9200 North Lamar, on the west side.


For my birthday this week, my best girlfriends took me to Lamberts. What better than some upscale BBQ? I went last year on my birthday for Sunday brunch, but had never been for dinner before.

We started with the charcuterie plate, which included some lovely pork butter (in the ramekin, top left), pork pate, beef tongue, and bologna, and on the right, an assortment of cheeses, a semi-firm, a brie-style, a lovely blue, ....there was a small menu at the table which named all the cheeses, but I can't find it with their online menus. I remember now the blue was Ewe's Blue, which I wasn't familiar with, but Googling it, I have discovered it's from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, who make great sheep's milk cheese and yogurt.  Honey (with the honeycomb), mustard, pickled veggies, and char grilled bread filled out the plate. Lambert's menu does say "local" artisan cheese, but clearly, not all are. It was my favorite cheese on the plate though, so who's complaining?
I was told by two people to try the crispy wild boar ribs, and I really was looking forward to them. But what was the ONE thing they were out of on the menu? Oh well. After much internal debate, I settled on the pulled pork plate, and I did not regret it. I am realizing now, it doesn't look like much with the BBQ sauce all over the meat. However, it was lovely, tender, succulent pieces of pork that fell apart when you stuck a fork into them. And while I normally prefer my sauce on the side, this didn't bother me, but the pork was so tasty, that I don't remember a thing about the sauce. We also got some sides to share, so from the left, the green chile cheese grits, garlic roasted broccoli, and Brussels sprouts in brown butter with bacon.
One of my friends got the country ribs, which was pink, tender, and also very tasty.  I was really tempted to get the lamb chops, but have NO regrets with my pork, whatsoever. For dessert, we had the chocolate peanut butter cup and the made to order donuts with lemon glaze and coffee ice cream. The pb cup was almost sinful, good thing it was split four ways! The donuts were nice and crispy on the outside, but rather undercooked on the inside; I still liked them though, but I am a fan of all types of raw dough! The ice cream had strong coffee flavor, which was a nice surprise, and nice creamy texture. Service was good and consistent throughout the evening, and for a Monday night, they were hopping! It did seem like a mix of locals and business men from out of town.
 So which do I prefer better at Lamberts, brunch or dinner? I don't know! Certainly for value, the brunch stands out at $28 per person, all you can eat. It's a tough call -- go try for yourself!

Genghis Grill

Chain restaurants are generally not my favorite, though for some they offer consistency in their food needs. But I am all for trying new places, especially when the new place is offering free food as part of their soft opening. And thus, I stumbled into Genghis Grill, by the Central Market at Lamar and Westgate.

The owner of the franchise was greeting customers at the door, and after a few minute wait, we were seated. A very enthusiastic waitress welcomed us, explained how things worked, took our drink order, and encouraged us to get in the line. When you are first seated, you are given a stainless steel bowl that will become your bowl to fill with protein and veggies as you please. It's set up like a big salad bar with raw proteins first, dry spices, vegetables, and various sauce combos. You can create your own eating adventure or choose a card that has a formula for one of their signature bowls. You then take your bowl to the grill station; I was impressed with how they immediately asked if I had any allergies. They marked the ones that did, as well as for the vegetarian eaters, and I ASSUME grilled those separate from the meaty, glutenous, soy-infused bowls. You're also asked what type of starch you'd like -- white/brown/fried rice, udon noodles, pasta, or...tortillas?

I was totally fascinated by their grilling system, and it appears to work flawlessly. They take your bowl, give you a number, and then it's grilled on a huge 10 foot (+/-) diameter grill, where each order is conveniently separated by wooden stakes, and your number placed beneath. (I always wondered how the lone grill master at the Mongolian BBQ place downtown remembered whose bowl was whose.) You go and sit back down, and once the bowls are ready, they are brought to your table.
What I am most impressed with is their website. Under their build a bowl section, for every single component you add to your bowl, it will show you the nutritional information for the item, and it runs a cumulative tab at the bottom of the page. Particularly for people who need to watch their sodium levels, I think they'd be SHOCKED to actually see how much sodium they are consuming, depending on their choices. More restaurants should do this.
 Overall, it was a good experience. Everything was extremely fresh, and the service was good. Will both of those keep up? It was rather loud in there though, one because it was packed, as the word of "free food" had gotten out, and two, because they have televisions with sporting events blaring. Really? Do we need tv's in restaurants. In my opinion, NO, unless you're a sports bar. Big turnoff for me. Would I go back? Maybe. If I was ravenous, I'd get the "bottomless bowl", and maybe take some home. I think lunch is $9, dinner is $10, and bottomless is $12. It was fun, but I also know how to cook a pretty good stir fry myself.