Posts Tagged ‘Chinese’

Mon’s Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Broadway, tucked away behind a secret garden, is Mon Thai. Despite its proximity to one of most hectic intersections in Alamo Heights, Mon Thai is quiet and relaxing. The service always friendly, steady and quick (A caveat to this is if you sit outside. In that case, service can be noticeably slower – sometimes even with the feeling that they have actually forgotten about you – which is perfectly fine if you have time, and not so much if you’re there on your lunch hour). Most importantly, the food is always delicious. Every time I eat at this small, intimate, gem of a place, it has the wonderful effect of transporting me to a happy place far from the daily stresses of life, and the excess of mundane, uninspired, in your face food with which we are constantly inundated.

Each meal starts with a cup of soup which often comes to your table before you even order. Previously that soup was always the same, a broth of fish sauce and soy sauce with tofu. Lately, however, Mon Thai has been mixing it up – much to my delight. I always look forward to the surprise. A couple of weeks ago we were served a wonderful egg drop soup that literally melted in your mouth it was so silky. Also for starters, we often order the Vietnamese egg rolls with iceberg lettuce and hot pepper oil. These fried rolls (served piping hot and sliced in sections) are packed with vegetables along with a ton of flavor. Place a couple of sections in the ice cold lettuce leaf with a drizzle of the hot oil and you have yourself a perfect package of crunchy hot, crispy cold, spicy savory scrumptiousness.

Mon Thai serves a large number of curry dishes and sushi which is always incredibly fresh. Mon Thai also offers a variety of Chinese food dishes which my Mr. tends to lean. He especially likes the Kung Pao Chicken. I have tasted everything he’s ordered and thought each were very good. However, for my main dish, most of the time I order the pad Thai, which if you are a follower of this blog is no surprise, given my complete affinity for this simple, yet incredibly flavorful dish. In my opinion, Mon Thai’s ranks up there among the best in San Antonio.

On various occasions, I have also ordered the Poorman Noodles, which is very similar to pad Thai, but with extra vegetables. I particularly like the sweetness of the carrots along side the saltiness of the peanuts in this dish. The Sesame Noodles is another favorite. For me this dish in particular feels like comfort food Thai style, with its wide, stick to your ribs, noodles and toasted sesame seeds, lending a nutty, warm flavor. I just want curl up on a cozy couch with a bowl after a hard, exhausting day and let the day melt away with each bite.

I highly recommend Mon Thai. You should go and let Mon Thai take you away.

Mon's Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon

Hsiu Yu Chinese

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

The one thing I’ve learned about myself in this blogging experience is that if I don’t have much to write about a restaurant I’ve tried, the longer it takes for me to write it. Seems counter-intuitive. I mean if you don’t much to say, it shouldn’t take very long to say it, right? But the more jazzed I am about a restaurant, the more I have to say, the more I want to write about it and spread the word. Same goes if I really don’t like a restaurant – I may procrastinate since it is uncomfortable to write something bad about a business which may be owned by a family who makes their living through the success of that restaurant, but rarely am I at a loss for words. So what happens when a restaurant is only average. Not great, but not horrible either. Words, I have found, are definitely harder to come by.

Having said all that, it has now been almost two weeks since I’ve been to Hsiu Yu. Initially, I thought that the food was pretty good (I even tweeted as much), but after reflection and inevitable comparison, I’ve decided that Hsiu Yu is really only average. The food is alright, but ultimately forgettable, blending in with dozens of its competitors. To me, there were just no distinguishing features, from the food, to the service, to the atmosphere, setting this restaurant apart (with the exception that you have to buy a fortune cookie if you want one!).

If someone I was with really wanted to go to Hsiu Yu – I wouldn’t say no; the food there is okay, not terrible. But given a choice, I would go maybe a mile away, just outside Loop 410, to Formosa Garden – the food there is, in my opinion, better, although soup is not served with the lunch specials there either. Or, more likely, I’d go two or three miles south on Broadway to Mon Thai where the food is much better, includes Chinese options along side their signature Thai dishes and the atmosphere infinitely more interesting and intimate. Other Chinese restaurants I believe do it better are Wah Kee, on Blanco just outside Loop 1604, (although I would not give it higher marks on atmosphere) and the Taipei/Mencius family of restaurants (great food, great atmosphere, but pricier).

Hsiu Yu Chinese on Urbanspoon

Tong’s Thai Restaurant

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Tong’s Thai Restaurant is located just outside Alamo Heights on Austin Highway. Despite being open for years, my first experience there came on Wednesday at lunch with my Mr. and the little one. I have driven past Tong’s innumerable times and always thought it looked like an oasis in the midst of a somewhat questionable area, even as that area is seeing a bit of revitalization. And in that regard it doesn’t disappoint. The front patio seating is well screened from the Austin Highway sights and sounds by tropical plants and palms, even though they are a bit ragged. The atmosphere inside is warm and interesting, clean and neat, with modern touches, set along side the more stereotypical, but unique, Asian-influenced art and artifacts.

Tong’s offers authentic Asian cuisine with an emphasis on Thai and Chinese dishes. The lunch specials are very reasonably priced and the meals presented quickly by a friendly, courteous and attentive wait staff, making Tong’s a perfect place to go for lunch if you work in the area. A caveat to this recommendation is that the parking is extremely tight and limited, and the lunch crowd relatively large, which can result in a pretty frustrating situation. Although I did not have any trouble getting a space in my compact car, my Mr. in his full-size truck had to park across Austin Highway in parking lot between a no-tell motel and Nosh restaurant (P.S. Nosh is on my wish list – this sister restaurant to Silo serves tapas and cocktails – crossing my fingers on a future post!).

I ordered the Pad Thai since I cannot resist it even when I fully intend to try to something new (besides I am performing a survey on the best Pad Thai in San Antonio – so in the interest of science and my stomach…). Sadly, Tong’s Pad Thai missed the mark for me. The noodles were chewy and while the chicken and tofu were cooked nicely, the shrimp were well overdone and rubbery. The overall flavor of the dish was fine, especially after some doctoring with some fish sauce and sambal Thai chile sauce.

On the other hand, Mr.’s Shrimp Pad Khing (Ginger) was much tastier in my opinion, with plenty of carrots, onion, black mushrooms and strips of ginger, and the shrimp cooked properly. Mr. commented the ginger could have been more pronounced in the dish. But in my bite the ginger was strong and good, with a wonderful peppery kick. He also felt the portion size was a bit weak, including the rice, but in my survey around the room, the other diners did not seem to have this issue, especially those who ordered Thai bowls (essentially the main dish served without rice or a spring roll). And my portion, while not overly generous, was certainly appropriate for a lunch special serving.

The absolute highlight of the meal actually came at the beginning, but I wanted to save the best for last. We started with a cup of the Hot and Sour Soup, which we agreed could quite possibly be the best Hot and Sour soup we have ever tasted. Smooth and silky, loaded with vegetables, this flavorful soup also packed some real heat which, while not for the timid, I happen to really enjoy. Pair a whole bowl of this soup with Tong’s tasty, not in the least greasy, spring rolls and you have a great lunch worth going to back to again and again.

Tong's Thai on Urbanspoon