Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Actual Food From Chai-Yo

I’ve swung by Chai-Yo before, but never for the food, only for the taro milk tea.  I was going through a bit of an, uh, obsession with taro milk tea, and they were one of few places I could order milk tea online, and just swing by to pick it up.  But the place always looked cute when I stopped in, and the food did look good, so I finally visited to get actual food for takeout one weekend.

I placed my order on for pickup, but still didn’t receive my confirmation e-mail after 15 minutes, so I just went to the restaurant, assuming they just forgot to confirm or something.  I’ve only used Seamless a handful of times, so I wash’t certain I was supposed to get another e-mail anyway.  When I arrived, the woman told me that she hadn’t received my order.  I asked her to check again, as Seamless showed my order.  She again said no, and rather insisted several times that I was wrong and ordered from Modern Thai instead.  (This must happen often, as Modern Thai is right down the street, and in fact, I’ve been there before, for the pad se ew a year ago, and more recently for their coconut shrimp and thai iced tea with tapioca).  Finally, she realized the order was there, just no one had seen it and put it in to the kitchen yet.

So, I had to wait, which was fine, as it meant my food was certainly going to be fresh.  I waited in the second room, next to the dining room, which has seating but never seems in use.  That side looks like a dessert parlor, and they have an ice cream counter with several flavors of Mitchell's ice cream, decadent looking cakes (not Thai at all), and is where they make all the drinks.  While I waited, I also used the bathroom.  I’m not one to normally write about the bathrooms unless they are particularly notable, and this one was.  It was huge!  For such a small restaurant, I was really surprised to see so much real estate devoted to the bathroom. It had a large mirror, and a gorgeous counter top.  And it was sparkling clean.  Major points for their bathroom facilities.

Since I was getting my food for takeout, and I wasn’t planning on eating it right away, so I stuck with cold dishes, or, what I thought were cold dishes.  Both were ok, but not really worth going back for.  I’d still consider other menu items if I went back for another taro tea though, and if I were getting a hot dish, they have one dish that sounds fascinating: stir fried taro rice cakes.  Yes, I have a thing for taro!
Soft Spring Rolls with Tamarind Sauce.  $8.95.
I started with the soft spring rolls.  Described as “Rice paper filled with egg, tofu, green leaf, bean sprout and cucumber, topped with real crab meat and tamarind sauce.”  I was surprised when my takeout bag was warm, as I thought I was ordering cold dishes.  These were instead served warm.  Strange.  So I had to try one right away, rather than later as planned.

The temperature wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t standard.  The wrapper wasn’t rice paper like normal, but instead, more of a rice noodle.  Neither Ojan nor I liked the wrapper, it was too thick, and a weird texture.  Almost like a crepe.  It was even worse once it got cold.

Inside the rolls was an assortment of fillings.  Most dominant was fried tofu.  I don’t really like tofu, but I recognized the good execution of the cooking, and there was a generous amount of it.  There was also egg, sorta like chunks of omelet. It reminded me of tamago, and I really liked it, particularly dipped in the sauce.  There was also bean sprouts, cucumber, and some sort of green leaf, but these components were all kinda soggy, perhaps because the rolls are warm?  They were very soggy by the time Ojan got to try them, not successful.

I was really interested in the rolls because of the crab on top.  I love crab, and it is crab season.  There was indeed crab in the dish, but not much.  Just a few bits of shredded crap sprinkled on top.  No chunks.  It was fine, but not very substantial, and I think snow crab rather than local Dungeness.

The tamarind dipping sauce was awesome.  I dunked the crab in it, I dunked the egg chunks in it, and I even dunked my salad in it.  And more things when I got home.  Stellar sauce!

The price was about standard for Thai, and I actually thought it was a bit low since it included crab crab, but given the actual amount of crab, I take that back.  While I liked the sauce quite a bit, the rest of this dish really did not appeal to me, and I won’t order again.
Som Tum Salad. $8.95.
I also ordered a papaya salad. Since I knew I wasn’t eating it right away, I asked for the dressing on the side.  I’m not sure if they normally do that or not.  This dish came chilled as expected.

Described as “shredded green papaya, tomato, green bean, carrot and ground peanut, tossed in chili-lime dressing.”

It was a pretty standard papaya salad, made of up of mostly shredded papaya and carrots.  The vegetables were quite fresh and crispy, and held up fine even a few hours later.  I was disappointed by the other ingredients however, only 6 cherry tomato halves and 4 green beans in my entire salad.  Do you see any here?  Yeah, exactly.  Slightly spicy, as requested.  A decent sprinkling of ground peanuts.

There was also a lot of lettuce in the container, I think normally used as a garnish?  I ended up dunking it in the tamarind sauce from my spring rolls, and then later, once I discovered how delicious the papaya salad dressing was, I moved on to that dressing.  Speaking of that dressing … it was delicious!  I imagine fish sauce based.

So the salad itself was fairly generic and unremarkable, but they won me on the dressing.  I probably still wouldn’t get it again, but given that the dipping sauce and the dressing were both standouts, it does really make me curious about more of Chai-Yo's offerings.  Price was also about standard.
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