Thinh An Kitchen & Tofu on W. Waters Ave. in Tampa has only been open for a couple of months now. Most restaurants need a little time to iron out the wrinkles and may have issues with their set up, service, or food production until they get some experience and can build a rhythm. This particular restaurant, however, hit the floor running. Their set up is well thought out, their servers are knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful, and the food production had no hiccups that I could find. And Thinh An is generally packed, too. They’re managing a truly excellent start to their business.
Laura and I started off the night with some summer rolls. These had fresh herbs, including Thai basil, mint, and cilantro, that really helped brighten up the rolls. Rice vermicelli created a crunch, keeping the texture from being too soft. With barbecue pork layered above the rest, they then bundle the entire thing in a rice paper wrap. A smooth peanut sauce was provided for dipping, adding a woody, nutty bend to this flavor road. Virtually every food group is represented in these summer rolls, which are worlds healthier than their fried cousin, the egg roll. (But don’t despair, they sell multiple versions of those, too!)
The seafood udon noodle soup caught Laura’s eye and she couldn’t resist ordering it. It all begins with the broth, a savory seafood stock with freshly picked herbs and cut chives floating in it. The udon noodles themselves were long, thick, and incredibly soft, almost jelly-like. Tender squid and tail-on shrimp were paired with a pan-fried fish cake, giving you a taste of the ocean’s bounty. Like most bowls of udon, this one was very light, yet it was such a large portion that it could easily be a meal or two on its own.
The meal I ordered was almost a sampler platter. It had a grilled beef short rib that had been marinated in a brown sugar and soy sauce mix and then cooked to a dark transcendence! The bitter truth is that I wished I had another two of them. A grilled pork chop with a tinge of ginger’s coloring and piquancy made up for it with gusto. The sauce had just started to caramelize on top, deepening the flavor and really bringing the pork to attention. A trio of grilled shrimp were curled up on top; the grill oil kept them from drying out and added an appealing sheen to these tasty crustaceans. The accompanying shredded pork skins and the powdery topping are most likely an acquired taste for the majority of you; in other words, you probably had to grow up eating them to have them be your favorite thing on the plate. The egg quiche and fish cake, however, carry across cultural boundaries quite well, the quiche, with its suppleness, being a variation on ones you’ll find at more Americanized restaurants and the fish cake’s spongy, mildly fishy body seducing the tongue into wanting just one more bite. The julienned carrots’ veggie pile should be placed on the broken rice, with the tangy pickling liquid then drizzled over them, taking these plain vegetables and rice and spawning something worthy of a plate this elaborate. Tomatoes and cucumbers are there to allow you to clear your pallet in between all these varying flavors.
There were plenty of desserts with premade recipes, including bobba teas, smoothies, and ice creams, but Laura and I took the opportunity to design our own. You could choose from various options, such as would you like waffles, ice creams, or fruits. We elected to make a cone of sorts using a sweet coconut ice cream which, though I typically dislike that flavor, I absolutely loved! There was an egg puff (a close relative to the waffle in both taste and texture) behind the ice cream. The golden cells, crispy in the thinner parts and fluffy in the thicker bits, tore apart easily, making it a fun way to enjoy dessert. They were so good I could have happily just eaten them alone and would vigorously prescribe them to anyone in need of cheering up. Laura picked fresh pineapple, mochi in assorted flavors, and tapioca pearls as extra toppings. The pineapple and coconut ice cream were a natural fit, as anyone who loves piña coladas can attest to. The little marshmallow/gelatin cross-breeds named mochi are a beloved treat for Laura and I and they settled right into our mad scientist creation. I caught Laura trying to sneak all the tapioca pearls for herself and only managed to grab about eight for myself before they were all gone. Apparently, the thin skinned burst of liquid gems were too much for her to resist. The whipped cream rimming the cone of paper holding everything together was a nice finish to this most excellent delicacy.
Not only does Thinh An Kitchen & Tofu serve amazing food with superior customer service, but they’re also a mini market. You can browse pastries, egg rolls, sausages, kim chi, curries, and more, selecting lots of goodies to take home for later. Laura and I are delightedly planning out our next visit. I hope to see you there.
Thinh An Kitchen & Tofu
8104 W. Waters Ave.
Tampa, FL 33615