Recently tried Thanh in Irvine. Here's a review.
Definitely a great interior design. Nice modern motif, with angled mirrors along one wall. It is a big room, but still cozy. If anyone remembers the fancy Vietnamese restaurant that used to be in Culver Plaza, next to Sumo, this restaurant feels like a close cousin to that. I think they pride themselves in being differentiated from hole-in-the-walls like Pho Bac, and invested a few dollars into a clean and beautiful space.
The food, however, did not live up to the level of the room. We tried a bowl of pho, a bowl of special egg noodle soup, and a rice dish with charbroiled pork, julienned pork, and egg cake.
The charbroiled pork was good enough, but there was something "off" to the taste. The julienned pork, was normal. The egg cake was just plain too salty. The garnish also looked like they put much more effort than necessary. The cucumber was julienned into thin strips, and as a result, was dried out when it arrived on the plate.
The bowl of special egg noodle soup was not bad. There were slices of Chinese BBQ pork, which were quite tender and full of flavor. The wontons floating in the broth was unmemorable, but unobjectionable. There were also bits of crunchy pork cracklings (the byproduct of rendering pork fat) swimming with the soup. At first I thought they were a nice contrast to the broth and noodles, but after a while, they became a bit annoying. Ultimately, I pushed them to the side of my bowl, while I finished the rest of the noodles. As for the soup, it was good enough, sweet without a nice pork flavor, but I still prefer Pho Bac's soup over it.
As for the pho, I only took a sip of the soup, and found it had a bolder, herby flavor than other phos I've had. I can't really decide if I liked it better or less than Pho Bac's.
It was a good place to try. But with Pho Bac not too far away, offering, in my opinion, better food, at slightly (only a few cents) lower prices, I think I will stick to Pho Bac - even if I have to sit outside on those uncomfortable green metal chairs.