The List - Salads, Soup, & International Snacks
Next up on the half-time report of my adventure through Creative Loafing’s “100 Dishes” list are salads, soups, and international snacks. Salads:
I’ve knocked off four of the five salads. This will likely be the section I’ll likely finish first – woot!
Goi Salad @Com - not only was this a great dish, I had the lovely surprise of having my friend Megan show up with HER copy of The List in hand! We eagerly compared notes -we had some modest differences in our favorites - and agreed that we needed to tackle at least one more that week (found in International Snacks). However, we both agreed that the Goi salad was terrific. The dish was light, but with just enough kick to keep it interesting. We also ordered the basil rolls off of the menu and LOVED them. Just a little "googling" brings up Com as a highly-rated Vietnamese spot, and, based on my initial experience, I can see why people dig it.
Kitchen Sink Salad @ Community Barbeque (no picture) - Ordering a salad at a barbeque place was an act of sheer discipline for me. And it's not just any barbeque place; Community Barbeque is one of my favorites. The people making and serving the food are not only friendly but know what they're doing; they don't overload their dishes with gooey sauce to disguise short-cut methods in the kitchen. However, I wasn't there for the meat, and I had low expectations for my salad. Every "meat" place I've ever been to has anemic salads made with iceberg lettuce, shady tomatoes, and salad dressing made with corn syrup. I'm happy to report that was NOT the case at Community Barbeque. The stainless steel salad bowl was loaded with the same fresh ingredients they sell as you walk up to their counter: mushrooms, beets, onions, egg, and a delicious light vinaigrette. The salad was taaaasty, and, what's more, I now have a viable alternative for ordering healthy when the rest of my crowd wants a meat meal (or vice versa!)
Pea shoot salad @ H.Harper Station - technically, this isn't the dish from the list because the peas had gone out of season, and they were substituting with green beans. However, the server swore that the preparation of the dish was identical to how they make the pea shoot salad. I ordered it anyway to see if it was going to be worth a return visit. Good news -- it was! I thoroughly enjoyed the evening at H. Harper Station. The atmosphere was great fun - the food was reasonably priced, and my meal was super tasty. Of course, it was a Date Night with Billy, so I am especially agreeable under those circumstances!!
Super Food Salad @ Empire State South- And the winner in the salad category (so far) is the Super Food Salad. This salad comes with eight little bites of tastiness. Each section can stand on its own -- in fact, I don't think that they necessarily flow together that smoothly. However, they don't need to. Each section is delicious in its own right. Some have a citrus flare - others fall in the more savory category. I wish I had taken notes, but since it was a business lunch, about all I could manage was a picture. I've loved my experiences with dishes on The List, but this one, so far, rates as a top 10 in terms of deliciousness!
I had very high expectations in this category and have had some lovely surprises, but the Mexican dishes weren't as strong as I had wished. However, I've only completed 60% of the list, so there's still room for strong contenders in the last four dishes!
Carnita taco @Taqueria El Rey de Taco - What I remember most about this meal is how incredibly grumpy I was. I had had a super long day at work - had to drop off my car for service at the dealership and then sat in traffic with my family (who was also "done" for the day) to get to dinner. I loved the homemade tortilla, but otherwise beat a path home. Sometimes, dining out is like that. Even when a restaurant lives up to their end of their bargain (and I suspect they did), if the elements don't come together from a customer's perspective, you miss out on a good meal. I should probably try again.
Chile rellen0 taco @ El Taco Veloz
I don't know what genius thought to take a chile relleno and put it in a taco shell, but that cook deserves an award for creativity. I loved the idea of the taco a little more than the reality of the flavor. The restaurant is definitely "legit" Mexican food - with great chips, salsa, and even sodas that I loved in T.J., but, while it's a solid dish, I probably wouldn't put it on my own list.
Hot & numbing tofu rolls @ Peter Changs (no picture) - if you haven't eaten at Peter Changs, you should. Prepare yourself for marginal service and for an overwhelming menu, but if you're up for adventure, order anything with the hot & numbing spice. (The eggplant is my favorite). The dish gave me one of my stranger food sensations. The hot & numbing spice isn't as hot as it is bizarre. The spice, quite literally, makes your mouth a little numb. I liked the sensation. Others at the table did not. I'm not sure you can be neutral on this one.
Mixed Maza platter @ Café Agora
If you enjoy attending parties that serve "heavy hors d'oeuvres" and love nothing more than dipping a piece of bread into hummus, this is the dish for you! It's perfectly suited for the "snacks" category, because it really feels like snacking. This is a fun little cafe - with the odd habit of not posting any prices. The owner will let you sample anything he sells and is clearly very proud of the authentic cuisine. Solid and list-worthy! (And my friend Megan agreed)
Monfongo @ Pura Vida - Usually monfongo is plantain made with shrimp. Pura Vida takes their own twist on the dish using green plantain mash and mixing it with "pork cracklings" and pork jus. I ordered this with a large group of friends and the feeling was that it was fine. "Fine" isn't what the chef or The List people were going for. However, if you are at Pura Vida and order the mushrooms, everything else will seem "fine" in comparison. I definitely think the restaurant is list-worthy. I just would have picked a different dish.
Vietnamese “burnt rice” @ Chateau de Saigon - This dish was my "most surprising" from the International Snack list. I am a novice to Vietnamese cuisine, but when I walked in and ordered this, the waiter asked me if he had met me before. Why? Because I picked out the best dish on the menu! HA! This "snack" is my favorite in this category (so far). They fry the rice on a griddle (I presume?) until it's crispy on both sides. The rice pancake (my word, so I don't think that's the correct term!) is then served on a plate with meat dish on the side. The meat comes in a cast iron pot and you spoon it over the rice.. The sauce that the meat comes in is divine! I can't read most of the menu and my palette isn't discerning enough to deconstruct the flavors, so you'll have to trust me on this one. The meat is not at all spicy - just savory and delish!! Then- the pièce de résistance- when your bill comes they give you hard candy that tastes like guava. That sealed the deal for me. I was back inside a week.