100 Favorite Dishes: No. 14, Venison Carpaccio at Thanh Phuong

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Photo by Troy Fields
​This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

I enjoyed the venison at Thanh Phuong so much, it was even incorporated into the title of our cafe review of the little family-run Vietnamese restaurant in old Pearland: "Vietnamese Venison."

"Wow, that's as breathless a review as I've ever seen," wrote commenter Jalapeno underneath what was -- admittedly -- as breathless a review as I've written.

"This was the food equivalent of love at first sight," I had written. "My heart pounded with each bite." Okay, so perhaps I veered sharply into hyperbole with that review, but the passion behind it still hasn't faded.

The venison carpaccio -- a spin on the more traditional bo tai chanh, or Vietnamese beef carpaccio -- keeps company here along with four other favorites that are can't-miss items at this charming little place: deep-fried rabbit with a smattering of sesame seeds; a deep, mahogany-colored pho that's rich in cinnamon and anise; chicken wings coated with a briny-sweet glaze of caramelized fish sauce; and a decadent crème brûlée that tastes as if it belongs in a high-end French restaurant.

The venison carpaccio itself makes the best use of the soft, ruddy deer meat. The thin, opaque ribbons of deer are marinated in citrus juices and pungent fish sauce, served with strings of red onion and shallot woven throughout and liberally doused with crushed peanuts for a sweet, nutty crunch that plays off the sweet venison.

I've since found game meats on one other Vietnamese restaurant's menu, thanks to Eater Houston editor Amber Ambrose, who took me to one of her long-time favorites: Pho Dalat, on Tidwell at Highway 290. It's far less of a drive than Thanh Phuong, although I haven't tried the venison there for myself. But there's something about the anticipation during the drive south down Highway 288 for Thanh Phuong that makes the restaurant all the more alluring, high gas prices and all.

The list so far:

No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe
No. 99: Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria
No. 98: Veggie tacos from Radical Eats
No. 97: Bean pie from Conscious Cafe
No. 96: Swiss chard crepes from Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 95: Eggs Mia Bella at Mia Bella
No. 94: Mulligatawny soup at the Queen Vic
No. 93: Helado de Lúcuma from Pollo Bravo
No. 92: Black bean burger from Natachee's
No. 91: Chupacabra pizza from ERA
No. 90: Roast chicken from El Norteño
No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil
No. 88: Frank the Pretzel from Eatsie Boys
No. 87: Caldo Tlalpeño from Tacos del Julio
No. 86: English pea soup at Brasserie 19
No. 85: Falafel from Zabak's
No. 84: Buttermilk-fried pork loin with fried eggs at Canopy
No. 83: Grillades and grits from BB's Cajun Cafe
No. 82: Haemul dolsot from Seoul House
No. 81: Pandan waffles at Parisian Bakery III
No. 80: Pita bread and hummus at Phoenicia
No. 79: Goat pepper soup at Peppersoup Cafe
No. 78: Melon and Texas feta salad from Beaver's
No. 77: Hot Italian beef from BB's Beef & Hot Dog
No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe
No. 75: Pancakes from Fountain View Cafe
No. 74: Hobnobs from Fluff Bake Bar
No. 73: Chu chee eggplant from Nidda Thai
No. 72: Sausage sampler from King's Biergarten
No. 71: Shawarma from Abdallah's
No. 70: Moules-frite at the Broken Spoke
No. 69: Hong Kong-style French toast at House of Bowls
No. 68: Sashimi sampler at Sushi Miyagi
No. 67: Baleadas from Honduras Mayan
No. 66: Snow ice from Star Snow Ice & Teriyaki
No. 65: Boudin balls from MerCheri's
No. 64: Miso ramen at Umai
No. 63: Grim burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 62: Dabeli at Bansuri Indian Food Corner
No. 61: Wine and cupcakes at 13 Celsius
No. 60: Pâté de France from Spec's
No. 59: Steak and eggs from Ninfa's on Navigation
No. 58: Breakfast pita at Niko Niko's
No. 57: Vegan curry at Cafe TH
No. 56: Samosas at Shiv Sagar
No. 55: Ceviche at Latin Bites Cafe
No. 54: Wicked Philly at Pappa Geno's
No. 53: Pork chop at Perry's Steakhouse
No. 52: Soft-shell crab at Pico's Mex-Mex
No. 51: Sno-balls at MAM's House of Ice
No. 50: Whole catfish at Saigon Pagolac
No. 49: Nova fish box at New York Bagel & Coffee Shop
No. 48: Sojok mana'eesh at Cedars Bakery
No. 47: Pho ga at Pho Ga Dakao
No. 46: Sicilia salad at Trevisio
No. 45: Dahi puri at Sweet 'n' Namkin
No. 44: Hot dogs at Moon Tower Inn
No. 43: Real guacamole at Yelapa Playa Mexicana
No. 42: Akaushi short ribs at Soma Sushi
No. 41: Country-fried chicken livers at Haven
No. 40: Seafood gumbo at Cajun Town Cafe
No. 39: Tacos at Karanchos
No. 38: Crepes at Melange Creperie
No. 37: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 36: Guanciale burger at Plonk
No. 35: Snapper al cilantro at Teotihuacan
No. 34: The Houstonian at James Coney Island
No. 33: The Montrose at Amy's Ice Cream
No. 32: Lobster bisque at Philippe
No. 31: Tacos de cabeza y orejas at El Ultimo
No. 30: Oyster stew at Danton's
No. 29: Fried oysters at TQLA
No. 28: Banh mi at Cali Sandwich
No. 27: Captin's fried chicken at Zelko Bistro
No. 26: The Brisket House Special at The Brisket House
No. 25: Menudo at La Mexicana
No. 24: Chargrilled oysters at Wild Cajun
No. 23: Breakfast tacos at Revival Market
No. 22: Sticky toffee pudding at Branch Water Tavern
No. 21: Tex-Mex burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe
No. 20: Lasagna at Capri Pasta Pizza & More
No. 19: Pork rillette at Feast
No. 18: Chicken fried steak at Triple A
No. 17: Crème brûlée bread pudding at Killen's
No. 16: Migas at La Guadalupana
No. 15: Snapper with grapefruit at Kata Robata



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