Do You Like Banh Mi?

LY’S SANDWICHES

Banh mi is a Vietnamese and French fusion sandwich, a tasty result of the time period when the French had colonized Vietnam . From the western end, you have your baguette and pate. From the east, you have your pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, fresh jalapeno, cucumber. The two sides do it, and then they make a delicious sandwich baby.

BANH MI SPECIAL COMBINATION
BANH MI SPECIAL COMBINATION

Located in what I think is called the Golden Plaza on Division, more people know it as the place where Chinese restaurant Wei Wei Palace is located. Ly’s is pretty much just a hole in the wall, with a vibrant and vast collection of various Vietnamese food wrapped in plastic. There is also a large array of packaged snacks and drinks. Limited seating can be found right outside the store.

I always order the Special Combination, which consists of the aforementioned ingredients but also sliced pork and pork belly. I may be incorrect on this but I don’t think she uses mayo, as many do, which is fantastic. Not a fan of mayo. Now, there have been a few inconsistencies with the freshness of ingredients. But my last visit, the photo above, everything was very fresh with plentiful portions and the pork belly was just, so great.

As far as I know, Ly’s is the only place in town to find banh mi. I love this little shop.  I’ve also had their banh cuon (rice paper crepes) which was delicious as well (I had them made fresh, not one of the plastic wrapped ones.) Oh, and did I mention that the sandwich costs 3 bucks? However, bring cash. As of now, they don’t take credit cards!

Have You Been To Mekong Yet?

Mekong restaurant was a pleasant surprise, and I can’t wait to go back to try more of their dishes! The good quality of food stood out to me, especially compared to a few other Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants. The spring rolls, for example, weren’t just slapped together in a hurry with scarce offerings inside. The shrimp and pork were great and the rice paper was rolled tightly so that it didn’t get messy. I found the menu to be quite intriguing; with various dishes that featured chicken feet, curried frog legs, and roasted quail. I am always excited when a restaurant goes beyond the typical offerings in GR. Don’t worry though, because they have the beloved classics as well, such as pho! Our server was sweet and the prices are reasonable. You should go eat here.

Spring Rolls.
SPRING ROLLS
Lemon Beef
LEMON BEEF
Vietnamese Sesame Cracker/Flatbread
VIETNAMESE SESAME CRACKER/FLATBREAD

A New Restaurant Called Chen’s Gourmet Buffet!

I know what you’re thinking; is she really doing another Chinese buffet post?

Yeah! And?

On Christmas day, Nathan and I were driving around looking for some eats. Every American knows that Chinese restaurants are usually open on this holiday, right? Well, my first two choices, Chuancai Fang and Mandarin, were closed. Good for them! Sad for us. Driving on 28th Street, we turned around and that was when I noticed Chen’s. It caught my attention because:

A. I’ve never seen it/ noticed it before and

B. The name is different. It’s not a China Hunan Wall Wok Garden Tasty Happy.

Plate 1.
Plate 1.
Plate 2.
Plate 2.
Plate 3.
Plate 3.
Nice new interior.
Nice new interior.

Not the cheapest buffet, but I believe it’s worth it. I rarely go for poultry but their Bourbon Chicken was fantastic. I love fatty chicken skin and that’s exactly what I got. Clams were great, I don’t think I bit down on anything gritty once. Garlic green beans are always a must. Judging by the photos, I liked their eggrolls because I got a second one. They have delicious soft serve here, better than at other buffets. I indulged in two of them. But sadly, no cones.

We got there right before noon so everything was fresh. You could hear Chinese pop music blaring from their kitchen, which I was amused by. The interior is new and here’s something different about this Chinese restaurant- they have a drive thru!

I’m really liking this place so far, and I’ve had that chicken on my mind for a while now. Check Chen’s out and let me know what you think!

If You Have A Problem With Gluttony, Don’t Go To Ming Ten.

I should really listen to my own sage advice.

Ming Ten is a popular Chinese and Japanese buffet restaurant. This isn’t the place to go to if you’re in want of authentic food, but as far as buffet sushi goes, this restaurant may serve the best in town. (There’s another buffet with sushi that may rival Ming Ten’s but that’s for another time.) But if you’re looking for Chinese food, there are better places around. There is also a hibachi area where you can pick your ingredients, and they will cook it up for you right on the spot.

Sushi Bar
Sushi Bar
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My plate of food. 1
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My plate of food. 2
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My plate of food. 3

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IlovesoftserveIlovesit

This place is often busy, and the service is always efficient. I think the pricing  is reasonable, considering how many people like myself frequent the place. As I mentioned in another post, many people look down on buffets. Well I love em. Ming Ten is always busy so they change out the food constantly, which is very important. I recommend the potatoes, Chinese dumplings, garlic green beans, mushrooms, and their spicy tuna roll. But by all means, try everything! It’s a freakin buffet!

A New (And Only) Sichuan Restaurant in Grand Rapids Called ChuanCai Fang.

There once was a wonderful Chinese restaurant in Grand Rapids called Peking Wok. Serving authentic Chinese cuisine, this establishment served fantastic food with friendly service and incredibly low prices. Unfortunately, they were located in a dead strip mall in an area hardly anyone goes to, and it was very sad but not surprising when they closed down. Alas, Grand Rapids went back to only having American Chinese restaurants in its growing foodie roster. Until now.

Chuancai Fang is a new Sichuan restaurant that has only been open for a couple of months now. Located on 28th street, it’s not an ideal area but it’s not bad. I first read about the new establishment from EatGR (big thanks to whomever posted this blog on there!) and I was appalled and even a little angry that I hadn’t known about  it earlier. I had a new mission.

Spicy Boiled Wontons
Spicy Boiled Wontons. Some of them were just shy of being completely cooked, and there was a sweetness in the chili oil that I wasn’t crazy about.
Spicy Boiled Wonton
Spicy Boiled Wonton
Cucumber in Garlic Sauce
Cucumber in Garlic Sauce. One of dishes I will always love. So simple but so tasty.
Stir Fried Shredded Potatoes with Green Peppers
Stir Fried Shredded Potatoes with Green Peppers. I was spoiled growing up by my mom and dad cooking these, so there was a high bar that wasn’t fully met. But still good!
Sichuan Cold Noodle Salad
Sichuan Cold Noodle Salad. Addicting! A new love.
Green Onion Pancakes
Green Onion Pancakes. These will always be one of my favorite foods of all time.
Spicy Beef Tripe
Spicy Beef Tripe. A little bland.
Mala Spicy Chicken
Mala Spicy Chicken. Eat with rice!
Five Spicy Beef
Five Spicy Beef. Much better when eaten with the sprouts hiding underneath.
Lamb with Cumin Seasoning
Lamb with Cumin Seasoning. This was Nathan’s dish but he absolutely loved it. I was actually surprised at how enthused he was.
Spicy Poached Fish
Spicy Poached Fish. I want some right now. Rice is a must.
Boiled Wonton
Boiled Wonton. The filling tasted old and flavorless.
Gele Shan Spicy Chicken
Gele Shan Spicy Chicken. Terrible, completely overcooked.

The photos are taken from a combined three trips, excluding repeated dishes. One lunch with Nathan, a dinner with my friends Jose, Jen, and Eddie, and the last visit was take out. The first two times were great! Delicious food, friendly service, and reasonable prices. Not to mention that hey, Grand Rapids has a Sichuan restaurant now. Hell yeah! The last two pictures are from my take away order and it felt like I ordered from a different restaurant. However, that just means now I have to go a fourth time to see if it was just a fluke, right? If you’ve been to Chuancai Fang, let me know what you think!

Part Two: Hong Kong and Dim Sum At The Airport.

Last year I asked the WordPress World on recommendations on great eats in Mongkok, Hong Kong. I received a lot of helpful responses, mostly involving dim sum. I was pretty excited to feast on authentic Chinese fare during our one night layover. Nathan and I wanted to go somewhere to eat within walking distance from our stay, and being smack dab in the center of the Ladies Market I didn’t think it would be an issue. Unfortunately, the popularity of the city and area had it’s backfires, such as every single restaurant being packed to the point of no available seating.

So where did we finally get some dim sum? At the Hong Kong International Airport, right before our flight back to the States. And how was it? Good! Nathan and I enjoyed the food and the tea was delicious and trippy. The esthetics was pretty as well with a fancier setting.

Jade Garden In Hong Kong International Airport.
Maxim’s Jade Garden In Hong Kong International Airport.

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Ginseng Oolong Tea

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The location wasn’t ideal, and the food was good, although not the best. But airport dim sum is better than no dim sum, right?

Indonesian Street Food at Rickshaw Republic!

Oh my gosh I loved this restaurant. I wish we had one in Grand Rapids.

In Chicago and visiting Joe, we went to an Indonesian restaurant he had heard good things about. Located within walking distance from his place in Lincoln Park was a plus, but we almost didn’t find it. If I recall correctly, there was nothing with it’s exterior to draw attention to the establishment. However, when we walked in it was a completely different story. 

rickshawinterior

rickshawinterioragain

We were sat at a small two top tucked off to the side so we got plenty of views of the gorgeous Asian interior. I was a bit in awe, and noticed others taking pictures as well. 

rickshawappet

Rickshaw Apps.

rickshawwrap Rickshaw Wrap.

rickshawcurrychicken Rickshaw Rice.

Rickshaw Smoothie.

Everything we ordered was fantastic! Focused on traditional Indonesian street food, their menu is broken up into sections such as Side Street, Main Street, Satay Stall, and Rice Table. Clever theme! Our server did a good job and was very welcoming, warm and helpful. The prices are reasonable. I don’t believe they serve alcohol, and you know what? I don’t even care! I’m in love with the place, and I can’t wait to dine here again. There are so many dishes I need to try. Why oh why are you so far away, Rickshaw Republic?

Food at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market!

Grand Rapids Downtown Market. What is it? Well, I’m feeling lazier than usual today, so the description of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market comes straight from their website:

“The Market is a mixed-use facility that brings together production, distribution, marketing and education about local produce. Our indoor facility features a 24-vendor market hall, while dozens of farmers and artisans line our outdoor farmer’s market shed. We offer several exceptional spaces throughout the site, including rentable incubator kitchens, rooftop greenhouses, and the nation’s first demonstration kitchen for kids (you have to see it to believe it). The Market is set to be LEED-certified (also the first in the nation), features a green roof, live walls, geotherm wells, rain gardens, and plenty of other innovative sustainable features.

We wanted our Market’s location to serve as a focal point within the city while revitalizing a previously neglected area. The Market continues to spark redevelopment of nearby properties while reintroducing community neighbors to a once underutilized Grand Rapids locale.”

So yeah, all those things. Now, the food!

FISH LADS

Fish Lads.

Fish Lads Bivalves.

Fish Lads Closeup.

Fish Lads Mussels.

Their menu, (not cheap!), is full of different selections that showcase freshwater fish from the Great Lakes and high quality seafood from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. I love fresh oysters, so I adore the seating at the small bar right in front of their various bivalve selections! They also have a large case of beautiful and fresh catches that you can buy and take home with you to prepare for later.

RAK THAI

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Rak Thai.

The food here is described as being created by a Thai upbringing in an American childhood. I wasn’t crazy about the Mini-Mis but I did enjoy the Bangkok Tango. Also keep in mind that they do things quite spicy here! Much appreciated.

TACOS EL CUNADO

Tacoselcunado

tacoselcunado2

Not only tacos and tamales, Tacos El Cunado focuses on authentic Latin American foods using Michigan ingredients. They have a self serve salsa bar and grocery store items for purchase as well.

LOVE’S ICE CREAM

Love's Ice Cream.The first Michigan ice cream maker that creates ice cream, sorbets, sundaes, and cookies using organic and locally produced ingredients. They also offer vegan treats, and even their cones are handmade. Highly recommended is their mint ice cream, with real chunks of mint that Joe is enjoying, pictured above.

I really enjoy the Downtown Market. It’s trendy and expensive, but it’s something new to the city of Grand Rapids. Plus, you have one area with a high concentration of food options, and I’m always sold.

Fish Ball All Kind, 5.99. (H Mart in Chicago.)

I have a best friend, and his name is Joe. Joe lives in Chicago, and I like to try to visit him at least once a year. Our time is effortlessly focused on good talks, food, playing pool, lots of imbibing, and more food. This trip around, he was excited to take me to a new-ish Korean market called H Mart!

hmartkimchilady

Pictured above is a lady making kimchi. It’s neat to see them making it right before your eyes. Honestly, I didn’t try or buy any. Growing up in a Chinese Korean household, with your mother making damn sure that the table was never missing this fermented cabbage, I have been kimchied out for plenty of years now. (Don’t tell my mom.)

hmartexterior

hmartinterior

When we stepped inside I was quite surprised at the size of the supermarket. It’s massive, with more than plenty of fresh selections. The entire store was very organized and clean. hmartfishballs

hmartpeppers

hmartlady

A lady making a ton of banchan, traditional Korean side dishes. hmartfood

H Mart also has a food court! I was elated. There were many different restaurants, all featuring different Korean foods,  Chinese, and Japanese.

hmartwhatadump

This is what Joe was most excited for. The gentleman that owns the store called What A Dumpling makes all the dumplings he sells, and there were plenty of different kinds! He also packages them up so you can take them home. Yummy stuff, for sure. It was fun sharing several different kinds, and we each had our own favorites. I know earlier on I was inadvertently not so inadvertently dogging kimchi, but I freaking love it in dumplings.

There is also a large section of retail stores, selling everything from electronics to kitchenware to beauty products. I took a couple of photos but there were people either ducking or covering their face in each one so I opted not to post them. Shy or annoyed people not wanting to be in a total stranger’s picture, because you know, Asians just don’t take enough photographs, ever. What a bunch of jerks.

H Mart is a great market! Obviously I don’t shop there often, so the whole experience was just fun for me. The food court alone makes me want to go back the next time I’m in Chicago. Hopefully Joe’s obsession for those dumplings is true love and not just fleeting infatuation.

Thai Express. Maybe the Most Authentic Thai Fare in Town?

Update 9/6/18:

I wanted to update this entry, because this place is really one of my favorite Thai restaurants in town. They don’t use fish sauce, which is the only thing I dislike about their menu. Otherwise the food is fantastic, and the service is always good and friendly!

They also moved locations, just to the stripmall behind their previous location on Kalamazoo Avenue.

CHICKEN LARB

Chicken Larb, which is my favorite dish here. I eat it with steamed rice.

MANGO SALAD

Their Mango Salad is delicious!

Now back to the original post:

Located in a nondescript little building on Kalamazoo Avenue, I have driven past this little restaurant countless times without truly noticing it. Now, after having dined here one time, it can safely be said that this place is in my top two of Thai eateries in Grand Rapids.

thaiexpressfishcake
Tod Mun

I suppose the best way to describe this appetizer is as a fish cake. A mixture of fish, herbs, and vegetables. Tasty and chewy, mild but still flavorful. The sauce that accompanied it was delicious, with peanuts and cucumber chunks. I could have eaten it alone.

thaiexpressricesalad
Nam Kao Tod

The salad was interesting. It was good, but certainly not my favorite dish. Rice with red curry, ground chicken, onion, ginger, green onion, lime juice and peanuts on top of lettuce. I had a little left over the following day and enjoyed it more cold, as the dish was served warm.

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Spring Roll.

If you order a specialty dish, you receive a complimentary spring roll. It wasn’t the tastiest spring roll ever, but the skin was crispy and light and it made me wonder if they make their own.

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Pad Bai Gra Phao

Holy basil leaves, mushrooms, and onions stir fried in a ginger garlic sauce. I added beef and tofu. As far as the spice level I ordered, whatever it was, most likely it wasn’t hot enough since I don’t remember it. I enjoyed the meal, and the large mushrooms were quite nice. The beef wasn’t the most tender, however. But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t chewing on overdone beef, either.

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Thai Sweet Iced Tea

They offer Thai Sweet Iced Tea with free refills! That was something different. Always so tasty.

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Complimentary Dessert.

Another pleasant surprise was the free dessert they give with your meal. There were a couple of choices, and I went with the old school ice cream sandwich. They also offer those gross pastel mints you always find at Asian restaurants. I’m a little shocked that they still exist.

There wasn’t anything I raved about. Some things I enjoyed, and others were just okay. So why do I hold this establishment at such a high ranking? At the risk of sounding amateur, looking over the menu gave me the sense that this place has more authentic offerings than any other in town, even if it’s just a couple items. Without exaggeration, there were so many different choices I wanted to try. That is usually a good sign of a great menu! A small little casual spot with very friendly service, and I would say low to medium price points. I very much look forward to going back and trying the other five+ dishes I wanted to try the first time!