Sweetie Thai

If you’ve read any of my other entries about Thai food, then you already know what I’m going to say. Does Sweetie Thai use fish sauce? Check!

Located on 28th Street in Wyoming, I’ve visitied Sweetie Thai a couple times. They have a good selection of salads, so that was what enticed me to go there.

GREEN MANGO SALAD

Nathan and I both really enjoyed the Green Mango Salad. You should try it; I bet you’d like it too.

PAPAYA SALAD

Papaya Salad is one of my favorite Thai dishes of all time, and Sweetie Thai’s version is my favorite so far. Nathan is not a fan, but I think fish sauce and shrimp paste can be overpowering for a lot of westerners. However, I would not recommend eating the mango salad at the same time as the papaya salad. Not the best mix of flavors.

LAP GAI

Lap, aka laap, aka larp depending on how the restaurant Romanizes it. Another one of my favorite Thai dishes, and this version is great.

PAD SEE EW

Located in a strip mall, the space is small, modern, and hip. They are set up for take out, but they have tables to dine at as well. You choose your meal at the counter and pay, and then they bring your food out to you. The portions are smaller than other Thai spots. The only real negative with the food for me is that the steamed rice was quite dry every time I visited. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be, I don’t know.

Definitely give this place a try! It’s in my top 3, along with Thai Express and Nu Thai Bistro.

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Georgina’s

Georgina’s is a newer restaurant located on popular Wealthy Street. This one is the second location, with the first one being based in Traverse City. The menu features the owner’s heritage, so it’s a fusion of Latin and Asian inspired food.

DUMPLINGS
SALMON TACOS

I came here with my friend Paul, who actually is a fan of their Traverse City location! I was a little surprised about the differences on the menu from the two restaurants. There wasn’t a menu for the GR spot online, so there were a couple of things I wanted to try from TC and I was disappointed that I didn’t find them here. However, their menu has a lot going on so there were plenty of options to choose from.

Everything was enjoyable except the tacos. I hate to complain about generous portions, but there was so much slaw and creamy sauce on them that it was overwhelming. Not just trying to eat it, but in flavor as well.

The service was good, the space new and a little more intimate and cozy. I’ve only been once, so I’d like to go back and try something from the Latin side of the menu!

Nu Thai Bistro

I’ve been on a mission to find a favorite Thai spot in town. It’s not that there’s a lack of options in GR; it’s the fact that so many don’t use fish sauce. WHY??? Fish sauce is a staple of Thai cuisine! It makes food delicious! Use it!

Another reason I’ve been on the hunt is because of my friend, Joe. He’s Thai, and we used to work together years ago. He would always make real Thai food and it was amazing. My favorite. As years go on, I still haven’t found a place that serves food as delicious as his.

I recently visited Nu Thai Bistro, which is located on 28th Street in GR. What do you think, has my quest finally ended?

YUM WOON SENE SALAD
CHICKEN LAAP

The best part of Thai cuisine are the salads, as pictured above. They were great. I always try laap when I go to a Thai restaurant, and this one is my favorite. I order steamed rice to eat with it. The Yum Woon Sene Salad took me by surprise because of all the lime. When you eat all the components together, the chicken with the cilantro and onion and noodles, it evens out. That’s what I love about authentic Thai food; it’s all about the balance of flavors and senses. Spicy, sour, sweet, bitter, and never too heavy. Also, portions here are large, so keep that in mind.

When I was here, it seemed that there was only one person in the kitchen. The dishes took a while but I didn’t mind. I will always wait for good food. However, reading over reviews, wait times for meals seems like a common complaint. You probably shouldn’t come if you’re in a hurry. Hopefully the only one cook issue isn’t a permanent one.

So, was the food as good as Joe’s? No, but it’s the closest that I’ve found. So, along with Thai Express, I can safely say that Nu Thai Bistro is one of my new favorite Thai restaurants. And yes, they use fish sauce!

Simple Fish

Simple Fish is a new sushi restaurant located south on Division Avenue. The space used to belong to a business called Rak Thai, but the current tenants aren’t related to the prior ones.

SAKE & IKA SUSHI

I always try the salmon at sushi restaurants. It may surprise some, but the quality of it varies a lot in this town. At Simple Fish, the salmon is good! As was the squid. I did have one problem with the sushi though, which I’ll detail more in a bit.

FIRE FLOWER ROLL

This roll was good. I did order it without eel sauce, however. The ones pictured are spicy mayo and Dragon’s Breath, which the latter was fantastic. Try it out if you’re a fan of spicy!

So as I said, the roll was good. However, it could have been much better. I mentioned earlier that there was one thing I disliked about the sushi, which is their rice. Very bland, and it basically tasted like lightly oily steamed rice. It seemed closer to kimbap style rice than sushi rice.

SIMPLE FISH ROLL

I’m repeating myself here, but the Simple Fish roll would have been so much better with seasoned rice, or if it was more seasoned. The way it was was just okay, not very flavorful. I’m not one to douse and disguise my sushi with sauces, so the rice is an important component to me. I believe that it is an important component to the existence of all that is sushi, but I’m not an expert.

The service I received was great and very friendly. The menu here is a little smaller than other spots in town but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I didn’t see Miso soup anywhere though, which is odd. It took me a while to decide on which specialty rolls to try, so that’s a good sign. Simple Fish isn’t a sushi restaurant where the rolls sound better on paper than how they actually taste. I’ll visit again, because I’ve only been once and the flavorless sushi rice could have been a fluke on this particular visit. Oh, and if you’re a fan of bubble and milk teas, they have a nice selection of those here!

Pho Challenge #4. Mekong Restaurant

I have already written a post for Mekong, but this entry is just for the Pho Challenge I started several years ago.

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SIDE OF THAI BASIL, JALAPENOS, LIMES AND SPROUTS
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SPECIAL COMBINATION PHO
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SPECIAL COMBINATION PHO WITH ALL MY ADD-ONS

They are generous with the fixings here, with a good amount of different types of beef. They are also not stingy with the tendon, which I always appreciate. Their broth isn’t my favorite. I like that it’s not as sweet as Asian Palace Pho 99, but I like the flavor at Pho Anh Trang more.

This restaurant is my favorite place to get Vietnamese food, albeit not my favorite for pho. It’s still good, don’t get me wrong. Just not my number one. Check it out! They have a great menu and good service.

Wei Wei Palace

This may surprise some people, but I’m not the biggest fan of dim sum. I think it’s because when I do get it, I’m usually disappointed. I’ve had dim sum several times in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and two places in Grand Rapids.

Several years ago, there was a restaurant on Eastern Avenue called Sunny’s Kitchen. Their dim sum was some of my favorite, but sadly they closed down. As far as I know, there’s only one place in town that serves it now. Wei Wei Palace, located on Division Avenue.

My favorite dish was the ginger scallion tripe! The sauce was great. I liked their pan fried chive dumplings and Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce as well. Everything else was just okay, or I didn’t like it at all.

They have a regular menu too. I can’t really say anything about it, since I haven’t seen or ordered from in in over five years! I believe they do dim sum on Saturday and Sundays only.

The restaurant is big, so you can come in with large parties and sit at a round table. The service is friendly and efficient. Also, if you do dine in for dim sum, know that gratuity is included in the bill automatically!

Sapporo Ramen & Noodle Bar

Considering that I have not yet had real ramen before (the time I had it in the Hong Kong airport doesn’t count), I was still pretty excited to hear that a ramen shop was going to open in GR, located on 28th Street. Originating in East Lansing, this restaurant features traditional noodles and recipes from the Sapporo region in Japan.

CHICKEN KARAAGE & SPICY GARLIC EDAMAME

The edamame was good, but the Chicken Karaage was a little too greasy and sweet. Nathan agreed with me on this one as well.

TAKOYAKI

I’ve been scaling back on a lot of animal and certain seafood consumption, but I wanted to give their Takoyaki just one try. The mayo sauce was far too sweet for me.

GYOZA & WAKAME SALAD
OROCHON BRAVE

So on their soft opening, Nathan and I dined in for dinner that night with our friend Ha. I ordered the Orochon Brave, and I added sweet corn and steamed tofu. I was a little disappointed with my ramen, but Nathan and Ha both enjoyed theirs and said they would go back again. (I should mention that they both have been to Japan, so they are snobbish about their ramen.)

OROCHON MISO

Now this. This ramen right here. The Orochon Miso. Delicious. I liked it so much I went back a couple days later to order the same thing, but with the addition of garlic oil, steamed tofu, and sweet corn. I would actually recommend it without the oil and tofu; while the garlic oil created an irresistible aroma, I think one of the added items, or both, kind of diluted the broth a bit. The Orochon Miso also has a nice spice level, as the Orochon Brave wasn’t remotely spicy.

Overall, I’m a fan. You may be confused, because with everything I tried so far, I disliked more dishes than I liked. That’s how much I like the Orochon Miso, though!

Be aware, prices are mid range and if you choose extra toppings and appetizers, it can really add up. As for the service, it has been very warm and very friendly! A welcome addition to Grand Rapids!

Curry Leaf.

In my mid to late twenties, Indian food was an obsession. I couldn’t get enough of it. As time went on, the diversity of my food choices was greatly broadened and my love of the cuisine quietly slipped away from the spectrum. On top of that, the last two or three times I had  Indian food  were disappointing and only compounded my dead desire for the cuisine. That is, until Curry Leaf opened.

Located in the old Fleetwood Diner in Kentwood (R.I.P. Fleetwood Diner) it’s confusing when looking at it from the outside. They haven’t remodeled at all so it still looks like a restaurant from an era ago. When Nathan and I walked in this past weekend, I was very surprised to see how busy it was. At an off time on a Sunday afternoon, the place was nearly packed! And with about 80 percent of the customers being Indian, I took that as a very good sign.

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MIRCHI-KA-SALAN AND MUSHROOM MUTTER MAKANI

We didn’t know that we would receive complimentary dosas in the beginning of our meal. A thin crepe with a layer of cheese and filled with spiced potato, they were fantastic. For an appetizer I ordered the samosa, typical I know, but I was really craving potatoes. Next time I’ll go with the dosas instead, and I recommend for you to do the same!

Everything was great. From the appetizers to the naan to the entrees to the tea, so delicious! And what really surprised me was Nathan’s enthusiasm about the whole meal, especially about his Mushroom Mutter Makani. There have been times in the past when I craved Indian food and he never wanted it. I have a feeling this restaurant will likely change that.

The only tiny negative we had about the meals was the spice level. I asked for mine spicy, and it was good, but I would have enjoyed a little more. Nathan said the same about his dish, and keep in mind that he’s kind of a wuss. He asked for medium spice, and found it a little lacking. But you know, something like that is subjective, so take it with a grain of salt. (See what I did there?)

After only one visit, I can say that I love Curry Leaf. The food was awesome and the service was warm and friendly. You can tell that they are genuinely excited and happy to be there. I think the prices are typical for an Indian restaurant. As Nathan said, he will surely miss his Hippie Hash from Fleetwood, but, Curry Leaf is quite a welcome addition to the neighborhood!

Seoul Market Cafe

Hey. Hey! Korean food in GR! Korean food in GR!

I visited Seoul Market Cafe about two months ago, within their first week of opening. Located inside one of my favorite stores, Seoul Market, they put up some walls and made a tiny space into a dining area that offers a large selection of traditional Korean jjigaes (stews), soups, Korean BBQ, and stir fried foods.

So don’t hate me. Actually, if you do, I legitimately couldn’t care less. I did have a couple minor complaints about my meal.

First of all, the banchan (side dishes) were good and most importantly, fresh. The complimentary mackerel that comes with jjigaes was fantastic. It made my mind and feelings hurtle back through a portal of time to my childhood. It’s amazing when our senses do that to us, isn’t it? For my meal, I ordered the Kimchi Jjigae. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was good. But, the meat was marinated and sweet, which I didn’t like. And there was much more kimchi than anything else in the stew , so it was actually a bit too sour for me.

Do I still love this place? Yes I sure do. Overall everything was great, and  in my opinion, Grand Rapids needs more cuisine that is culturally diverse and authentic. Not to mention the fact that my opinion is based on only one visit, within their first week of them being open! I’ve only heard great things from others about the place, and the excitement of a legit little Korean restaurant opening here in town cannot be denied.

While you’re there, take the time to look around and see what the rest of the market has to offer. I highly recommend the Cuttle Fish Snacks. Trust me.

 

Pho Challenge #3. Asian Palace Pho 99

So you must be thinking, “It’s about freakin time!”

Or, you may feel more like, “Huh? Challenge what?”

Back in 2013, I gave myself the task to try out all the reputable pho spots in town to seek out the best of the best. It’s an understatement to say that I’ve been slacking on my mission.

Sowwie.

So, here we go!

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VIETNAMESE SPRING ROLLS

These were flavorful and crisp, and the sauce they serve was heavy with fish sauce, which I love. Delicious!

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PHO ACCOMPANIMENTS

None of the sides were old or stale, and they give you a lot more jalapenos than other places. I was incredibly happy with that, and you could tell how fresh they were because they were very potent! I loved it!

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SPECIAL COMBINATION PHO

Before adding any of the fixings to my bowl, I always taste the broth first. It’s noticeably sweeter here than average, which I’m not a fan of. However, after adding all the jalapenos, basil leaves, and sprouts, it’s not as obvious. The quality of ingredients were good but the portions scarce. Sadly there was only one piece of tendon and just a few of tripe. The beef was good, and it’s great they actually serve rare pieces, but they were all pretty lean, no fatty bits and such. Healthier? Yes? More tasty? Nope.

Pho 99 is a good spot for pho but it does not rank as the best for me. Some fantastic pros here ┬ábut not without some disappointing cons. I know it’s a popular spot, and many locals prefer their noodles here to anywhere else. It just goes to show how different everyone’s tastes are. The atmosphere is spacious and casual and the service was good. Prices are about the same as the other pho spots in town.

Three down, two more places to go!