Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Thanh Binh - Taste of Vietnam in Camden

Thanh Biñh 
14 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AG

Among the latest upcoming restaurants and 'pop-ups' that you just have to get to within the next week otherwise you are just not 'on trend', there are those places that have remained stable and trustworthy for a while, . Thanh Binh is one of those (hell it's not even on twitter, heaven forbid!). I often take visitors to when around Camden, although I'm not sure if this is just the lack of choice near the Market that's guaranteed not to get a dodgy stomach from. It's a great little vietnamese, very modest interior and fantastic value, the food always arrives reasonably quickly although occasionally indifferent service.

Their menu is very extensive, with over 16 starters alone it's easy to feel a bit overwhelmed of what to choice. Some are very hit and miss. Definitely worth trying is the Cua Lot (Soft shell crab; £8.50) or Cua Muc (crispy squid; £5.50). Unlike any standard chewy calamari I've had, these are a pure delight, could eat a few dishes of these alone. These are very simple dishes, but they are done so well the batter crispy and delicate, and the garlic and chilli adding the burst of flavours. The Goi Cuon (vietnamese summer rolls) are a fresh, healthy starter but fall a bit flat in terms of flavour even with extra fish sauce. 

Cua Lot - soft shell crab
Vietnamese Summer rolls

The Pho here, like the Pho chain, comes with a side dish of bean sprouts, chili, mint and coriander. The broth is beautifully flavoursome. They equally do justice to meat and fish, Bo cho and ca kho (£7) to are slow stewed dish served in a flaming clay pot, adding a bit of theatre to the meal
However, the noodle salads are quite bland, although Bún Cha La Lót (grilled beef in wild betel leaf; £7) is fantastic, I can nearly brush aside the fact the vermicilli is near cold.

A fiery dish
Service is a bit of a let down, a lot of small restaurants like this are very welcoming, nothing too much of a problem. I've had occasions where I've been moved to the back area of the restaurant to accomadate a larger group. Then after waiting a while to pay, I left the money on the table (isn't this common practice?) was chased down the road by the owner. It's more apathetic than nasty though, and I will still keep coming here as the food is great. 

Thanh Binh on Urbanspoon

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