Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





What I Ate: May 23, 2009 (T & N Cafe)

Posted 23 May, 2009 at 10:35pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

Lunch: Leftover pizza
Leftover pizza

Dinner: T & N Cafe (6705 W Highway 290, Austin, TX‎ - (512) 899-9233‎). We were on our way to Costco, got hungry and stopped here. We started with a fried egg roll each.
T & N Cafe - Fried Egg Roll

Tina ordered the combination sandwich (which was filled with grilled chicken, grilled pork, and pork loaf). The bread didn't seem right to me - banh mi is usually very similar to French baguette while this bread was short and fat (much thicker than any baguette would ever be). Tina said it resembled the Vietnamese sandwiches she remembered getting while in Sydney. The filling was fine (I thought the chicken was bland, but liked the porks). I'd order the grilled pork sandwich in the future.
T & N Cafe - Combination Sandwich (Banh mi)

I ordered beef pho with tripe, tendon, and fatty brisket. This was a huge disappointment to me. The soup was barely warmer than body temperature - not hot enough to make any impression on the bean sprouts, basil, or jalapenos that I stuck into the soup no matter how long I waited. The soup base also lacked complexity and didn't feel rich (usually pho, which has been long cooked with beef cuts, bones, oxtail, and other goodies has an ample amount of gelatin producing a rich complex flavor and a specific mouth feel). This carried over onto the noodles which seemed to fall flat for me. The meats, which were prepared separately, were fine, but with a soup base that tasted like salty water with beef flavoring (almost like a Knorr beef bouillon), it wasn't good. I asked the woman who was running the restaurant how they prepared the soup and she claims they use many, many ingredients and cook for many, many hours. If they really spent that much time on the soup, then it's a waste of time, and they should either spend less time making the soup (clearly it's not very good) or learn to use that time effectively in producing a real high-quality beef broth.
T & N Cafe - Beef Pho (with fatty brisket, tendon, and tripe)

Later in the evening, I cooked up a couple eggs over easy and bacon. I served them to Tina and myself on tortillas and with avocado.
Fried Eggs, Bacon, and Avocado

6 comments to What I Ate: May 23, 2009 (T & N Cafe)

Jeff, May 23rd, 2009 at 11:28 pm:

  • Just curious, did you make a large batch of corn tortillas? They seem to be in nearly every post.

Michael Chu, May 24th, 2009 at 8:37 pm:

  • Hahaha, it's not nearly every post - it's probably every few days. I bought a pack of 30 of these, and I still have 6 left.

Warren Chu, May 25th, 2009 at 3:58 am:

  • I didn't realize they had opened up a Vietnamese restaurant there and I live a few miles from that shopping mall. I haven't had much luck with the Asian restaurants in South Austin, most have been disappointing, Tien Jin (near Central Market South in the strip mall on the Buffet Palace side) is the only one I'd recommend for ordering off a menu, otherwise it's probably best to head up north and stick with Din Ho and First Chinese BBQ about another 10 min north off Kramer and N. Lamar @ Chinatown Center (www.chinatownaustin).

    The MT Supermarket is up there which is where most of the Asian population in the Austin area go for groceries. HK Supermarket's selection has been in decline over the past couple of years, though I still stop by to check on the veggies after shopping @ MT.

Michael Chu, May 25th, 2009 at 10:13 am:

  • We've eaten at Tien Jin before and it was okay. I'll probably give it another chance at some point. We ate at First Chinese BBQ last year and Din Ho a couple weeks ago.

    Tina's parents ate at Shanghai and liked it, so we'll probably try that one later this week.

    Right now it's hard getting up to the Asian food centers since we live down in Kyle - it's a bit of a drive.

Nate, May 26th, 2009 at 7:21 am:

  • The bread actually looks okay, but that is a heck of a lot of carrots! Where's the beef (or pork, as it were)?

    I think a pho broth should have lots of little globules of fat floating on top. I would agree with your suspicion that the soup was just bouillon and water.

Michael Chu, May 26th, 2009 at 9:38 am:

  • I probably should have shot the bread from a different angle - it was a couple inches too wide in the middle - and the crust wasn't crusty. If this is how the Vietnamese learned to make bread from the French, the French would be shaking their heads.

    The carrots weren't lightly pickled either. I think the carrots and cucumber were both fresh… the pork and chicken are hiding behind it. Since the roll was fairly large, they managed to fit an ample amount of both back there despite the giant lump of shredded carrots. Tina had originally suggested moving the vegetables aside for the photograph, but I said that I wanted to take the picture the way it was presented to us.