Friday, September 30, 2011

Food Photo Friday - La Sombra

Setting aside my inane desire to break out in a chorus of "La Bomba" every time I walk in the door, La Sombra has grown on me since my first visit during their soft opening last summer. I love their empanadas, their quail skewers, and that crazy chacero sandwich packed with hangar steak, French green beans, avocado, and some other stuff that nobody cares about because the first three ingredients have stolen the show.

On my most recent visit, I tried their special, a nod to Asian influences on Latin American cuisine. Asian style noodles were tossed with tender mussels and Chinese sausage and finished with a sprinkling of scallions. It was beautiful.


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Our server, Scott, was an absolute prince when we sent the first plate back to the kitchen and brought a second plate that was significantly less salty and, not coincidentally, also significantly more delicious. Service like that will keep me coming back to a place. Especially if that place is close to my house and allows dogs on their patio.

I wonder if I can teach Mindy to dance to Ricky Martin.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ya? Ya! YaYa Cafe and Shaved Ice

Open a solid Asian restaurant in Austin, and I will appreciate you.

Open a solid Asian restaurant in Central Austin within a few miles of my house that is open until 10:00 p.m., and I will kiss your feet and throw rose petals on the path before you.

OK, maybe not. But I will eat there. Often. And I will be deeply grateful.

It was with high hopes that I darkened the doors of YaYa Cafe and Shaved Ice for the first time a few weeks ago. I sampled their spring rolls, a pork vermicelli bowl, and the wonton soup.


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The spring rolls were a little on the soft side, which made them a little difficult to eat - they didn't hold together as well as I would've liked. But they were still a nice treat, and the accompanying peanut sauce laced with chili had just the right measures of both sweet and heat to keep things interesting.

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The vermicelli was fresh and well-made. The pork had a nice char on it, and wonderful flavor. There was a fair amount of lettuce filler on the bottom, but the serving bowl was huge, so the portion was still plenty for me.

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This wonton soup wasn't mine, but of course I tasted it anyway. The soup could've used a little bit more oomph, but the wonton skins were happily quite delicate, and avoided the coarseness often found in restaurant wonton. I was impressed.

A second visit ensued within the week. This time, I was there for lunch, and tried their iced tea. Jasmine in just the right measure mixed with a quality green tea had me swooning; I asked where they acquired it, and was told they import it from Hong Kong. I guess I'll have to come here to get my fix.

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This time, I sampled my friend's cabbage salad. At first I thought it was too bland, but later bites revealed that it was just a little unevenly dressed, and the well-dressed bites were fresh and delicious.

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I was pleased to discover that their banh mi also hold their own; clearly my favorites in the Central Austin banh mi landscape, although that field is admittedly painfully small.

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YaYa's may not be a deeply authentic Vietnamese food experience, but the flavors I encountered here suggested to me that there is someone in the kitchen with a keen palate who cares about what's landing on the table in front of you. I feel quite sure that I'll be back frequently, and I'm thrilled that they've brought quality Vietnamese food to Central Austin.

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