Vietnamese cuisine relies much less on plain rice than most other Asian cuisines. Instead, they are big users of noodles, with rice noodles their way of including rice in a multitude of dishes. At Thanh Binňh II Vietnamese cuisine in Lake Forest, both rice and egg noodles take center stage. What really sets Thanh Biňh II apart, however, are some of the ingredients that are not found at other Vietnamese restaurants, creating a special dining experience.
Appetizers are plentiful and include egg rolls or Vietnamese style salted chicken wings sauteed in butter and garlic and served with a lime sauce. The garlic and lime sauce treatment also is used with shrimp and squid. The Gὀi Cuốn Tom, a shrimp filled spring roll, are filled with shrimp, rice vermicelli and various herbs and then wrapped in a rice paper wrapper. These are served with a peanut sauce, thick and loaded with crushed peanuts and a slightly spicy flavor. The freshness of the herbs is what sets these spring rolls apart, making a light, refreshing appetizer to wake up the palate. Another standout is the fried tofu, cubes of firm tofu lightly battered and then deep fried. These come with a sweet and slightly spicy chili sauce for dipping. The tofu comes piping hot, crispy on the outside and creamy hot on the inside. The sauce provides a nice contrast to the mild tofu and makes every bite a nice contrast of flavors.
Phở is a standout at Thanh Biňh II, available many different ways. Phở Gà is a chicken soup, with nice slices of chicken in a tasty broth. The rice noodles blend perfectly to make the a mild yet tasty soup. Like all pho dishes, the accompanying platter includes sliced jalapenos, fresh basil, mint leaves, limes and bean sprouts to add flavor to the soup. Phở Tái is based on a hearty beef broth, with slices of rare beef and well done brisket floating in the broth. An unusual soup, is the Phở Duôi Bỏ, which consists of an extremely rich broth filled with meltingly tender oxtails. This dish is an extremely rare find and is a perfect choice for someone who wants a rich and hearty soup.
The menu has a multitude of other soup choices, including pork soup, seafood soup and fish ball with chicken and shrimp soups. An unusual way to order some of the soups is to try some of the selections where the noodles and other ingredients are in one bowl, with the soup on the side. There are also several choices of soup with egg noodles, a heartier, chewier type of noodle for a different taste contrast.
The Bứn dishes consist of a base of rice noodles, mint leaves, bean sprouts, carrots, lettuce, scallions and cucumber. A tart, vinegary sauce comes on the side to be poured onto the dish before it is eaten. On this base of cool ingredients are placed various combinations of toppings. A standout combination is grilled pork, crispy egg rolls and grilled shrimp. The texture of the crispy fried egg rolls stand out against the chewiness of the pork. The shrimp adds another element of texture and blends nicely with the cool base of vegetables, herbs and noodles. Other combinations include the pork, shrimp and egg rolls separately, along with BBQ lemongrass chicken, ground shrimp or pork balls, curry chicken and BBQ beef.
For those people trying to adhere to certain health choices for their diets, Thanh Biňh II includes a vegan menu and a low carb high protein menu. A shrimp or grilled chicken sour salad is also an alternative choice for a light, healthy meal. There are also several choices of rice-based dishes, most with similar toppings to the Bun dishes but with rice instead of the noodles and vegetables. Rice also makes an appearance in several fried rice dishes such as chicken, beef or shrimp fried rice.
Beverages include Vietnamese drip style hot or cold coffee, Jasmine iced tea and young coconut juice. A few unusual drinks are based upon preserved lemons, made into lemonade, as well as sparkling soda made with preserved plum. Imported and domestic beers are available for those who desire them. Fresh lemonade and the usual sodas round out the drink menu. There is also a small dessert menu with items such as red beans with coconut milk.
The service at Thanh Biňh II is exemplary, efficient and friendly. It is an excellent choice for Vietnamese food in south Orange County. With hours that open from 9AM to 9PM seven days a week, it is a great choice for dining in Lake Forest whenever the mood strikes for healthy, flavorful food.
Thanh Biňh II Vietnamese Cuisine
23600 Rockfield Blvd., #2H
Lake Forest, CA