Sunday, April 02, 2006

Content-mint

One of the things I enjoy the most about my Opera-Loving Friends is their enthusiasm for trying new ethnic restaurants -- and for going vegetarian with me so that we can sample a variety of dishes -- when we head to the Big City for a performance.

So after a sumptuous matinee performance of "Turandot," we decided to stick with an Asian theme and visit a newly-opened and newly-reviewed Thai restaurant called Mint Cafe.

We knew we had chosen well when we were greeted upon our arrival by a trio of friends and acquaintances who have traveled to the Big City for theater performances for years and have developed an instinct for finding the best places for dinner afterward.

After a few minutes of delighted conversation, we settled in with our menus, enraptured by the possibilities but able to make quick decisions to appease our hunger. And while my friends enjoyed two different seafood soups for their appetizer, I savored an entirely different sort of sea-food: seaweed salad, thin shreds of seaweed tossed in toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper, and sesame seeds. Though I shared a few bites, I was quite happy to devour the rest myself.

Having cleansed my palate with some refreshing coconut juice (with shreds of tender coconut meat floating at the top), I looked forward to our trio of vegetable-laden entrees:

First came the Green Garden: steamed broccoli, baby corn, carrots, snow peas, green beans, squash, and sweet potato, with pressed tofu and a mild peanut sauce to go over jasmine rice. Simple but satisfying!

Next, we sampled the tofu string beans, a much more spicy concoction with some of the same vegetables served in a pleasantly hot and creamy coconut curry sauce, sprinkled with peanuts and cashews. Given my love of nuts, it's not surprising that I liked this dish best -- but it was a tough call!

Finally, we tested the vegetable pad thai and found the reviews to be spot on: flavorful, with each vegetable bringing out its own fresh flavor, and not nearly as oil-laden as so many other pad thais can be. Another winner!

Happily, we each found room for a bit of dessert. I decided to try the ginger ice cream, which had a pungent kick behind the sweet creaminess that blended perfectly, and while one friend tried the green tea ice cream (also very good), her husband opted for the banana spring roll drizzled with chocolate and served with coconut ice cream.

Add to all that fabulous food a good hour and a half worth of excellent conversation (not counting the good times we had all day long), and I think you will understand that I found myself very satisfied with the meal.

We have one opera left in our season, and so many excellent restaurants to choose from when we make our next excursion.

But wherever we end up, I know I'll be content.

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