The Hong Kong Market IV complex in Bellaire is always busy. At least during the days I go there. And I’ve been there an awful lot of times. No matter what time it is, the closest parking spot we could get was about 20 rows away from the door. Makes me wonder whose cars those 20 rows are, cannot be just the market’s employees’, can it? On the other hand, across from the artificial minipond and fountain, Tay Do restaurant looks so quiet we didn’t know if it was opened.
This is lunch hour, guys. The place is clearly so packed we had to wait to be seated. The only visible person in charge was talking on the phone and to a waitress behind the kitchen counter, and only spotted our unexpected visit after 10 minutes. Feeling welcome?
Except for the wait, we got more attention from the waiters the rest of our visit. Of course, the service here is about as indifferent as many other Vietnamese eateries, but at least we got our water, our food, and our bill in a timely manner. After all, we came to eat, not to chat and find companionship. And eat we did. A lot. Starting with appetizer: cua lột chiên bơ (butter-fried soft shell crab), eaten with fresh xà lách xoong (watercress). This is simply a must-have. I don’t like crabs because it’s too much work for too little meat, but when the crustaceans are caught shedding their exoskeleton to grow, the shell is soft enough to be edible, and among various possible recipes one of the best is you deep fried ’em. My taste buds like it, but thinking of the weak unprotected crab being thrown into a vat of boiling oil is, you know, unnerving. I wouldn’t be able to do it myself.
As we stuffed the last crab legs down our throat, the array of main course was brought out. From top to bottom: vịt chiên khoai môn (fried duck with taro), bò xào sate (stir fried beef in sate), and bánh hỏi tôm thịt nướng (banh hoi with grilled pork and shrimp).
The taro is the purplish layer underneath the duck meat. I like duck, and I like taro. But somehow the combination wasn’t spectacular. The taro was too sweet and the duck was too dry. Overall score: 2.0/10.0 for innovative idea.
When I wrote this wikipedia article about bánh hỏi I couldn’t find any picture of just banh hoi by itself, without the oodles of meat and condiments atop. Why, you may wonder. Because banh hoi is simply fine thin rice noodle. It’s simply white. It doesn’t look appetizing on pictures by itself. And it doesn’t taste amazing by itself either. Much less because this is downtown Houston and the best banh hoi we can get is the dried prepackaged type imported from Vietnam. Things change after a long voyage. Was it an enjoyable dish with the company of grilled pork and shrimp, though? Oh yes. Don’t forget spoonfuls of nuoc mam either. The best thing is this dish is so light. I was not miserable after finishing it. 6.5/10 for satisfaction.
The whole bill came out $57.26. There were a few other customers coming in as we were leaving. The manager/main waiter informed us that this place has been mentioned in several American reviews (didn’t say which ones), and since they’ve been here since I first went to Bellaire in 11th grade, I suppose their business is decent. The red lanterns hanging at the front door enhance the Chinese look, the menu is littered with kung pao chicken and chow mein, the restaurant is named Tay Do (West Capital) after the common name for Cần Thơ, Vietnam. But that’s ok. How should I sum this up? Shania Twain’s song comes to mind.
Address: Tay Do Restaurant (next to Hong Kong Mall)
11201 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77072