Tag Archives: Peanut Sauce

Mobile’s Yen Restaurant — “It’s Food Pho The Soul”

10 Jan

Yen sign

OK, folks — this one is a bit of a sleeper. Off the beaten path. Run down neighborhood. But, hey, don’t judge a book by the cover. That has long been our M.O. here at Dixie Dining. And it pays off more often than it doesn’t. I have lived in the Mobile area for 4 years now and I spend a good bit of time in my car. I mean, a lot! However, I had never driven this long forgotten stretch of blacktop, found just a few blocks off heavily traveled Government Boulevard. This part of town is certainly not featured in the Mobile Chamber of Commerce print material. Let’s just leave it at that.

Yen front

Just look at the restaurant’s front (above). Pretty sad, huh? Plain old cinderblock construction. A hand-painted sign. Landscaping needs a little work. Maybe more than a little. It’s the kind of place that most folks would drive right past. Yen doesn’t do any local advertising, yet they’ve been around for quite some time now. Over 15 years, in fact. So how does one explain this? Simple. Good food, fair prices, and a loyal local following.

Yen interior

The Dining Room inside Yen

Yen menu

The menu is bare bones too

Yen noodles

Some fried egg noodles to munch on

Yen summer

One of the high points of my first visit to Yen was the Summer Rolls (above). Call ’em what you want — I’m eating these babies any time of year. Super fresh and delicious. The accompanying peanut sauce was quite tasty too. None of the food I sampled at Yen was over the top spicy. The flavors are subtle, yet satisfying. Those who prefer it hot can ask for their food to be served spicy. Or you can just reach for the bottle of Sriracha Hot Sauce that is provided at each table.

Yen Spring

I also tried the crispy fried Spring Rolls (above) — you could tell they were homemade and not stuffed and wrapped weeks/months in advance. The rolls’ wrapping was suitably crunchy and not too thick. That is always a pet peeve of mine — too much wrapper and not enough stuff inside. I was pleased with what I tried here at Yen.

Yen fish

Spring rolls are served with a small dish of housemade fish sauce (seen above).

Yen pho

My main course was the Beef Pho, a delicious soup-like concoction made with beef broth, lean sliced roast beef, green onion, bean sprouts, fresh mint, and more. They offer a choice of a small or large bowl — I opted for small after woofing down the two appetizers by myself. Glad I did order small — the bowl was pretty substantial and I surely could not have eaten much more than that. I later saw the large bowl and it is massive. A couple with light appetites could easily share one of the large bowls of pho. Several varieties are available, so it may take me some time to try them all. Not to worry, I plan on returning with some frequency.

Yen cookie

My post-meal fortune cookie (above) reminded me that “Great thoughts come from the heart.” So does great food. Yen Restaurant has virtually none of the amenities needed to insure success. The location is not great. The structure is spartan at best. But they are cooking with lots and lots of heart. You can taste the love and attention in each bite. And that kind of passion for flavor and authenticity is harder and harder to find in these days of fast food and chain eateries. Make plans to visit Yen in the near future. It’s food PHO the heart — and the soul.

Yen Restaurant – 763 Holcombe Avenue, Mobile, AL 36606

(251) 478-5814; www.yenrestaurant.com

Advertisements

The Dragonfly Food Bar Soars Proudly into Downtown Fairhope

5 May

I first heard about Dragonfly at the Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival this Spring. They were offering some pretty unique street treats that particular day. I was tickled to later learn that they had opened a “food bar” in the heart of Fairhope’s historic downtown. It certainly seemed to be a good fit.

The advance buzz (Get it? Dragonfly?) on the street was quite positive. In fact, some of my local contacts were raving about Dragonfly’s innovative world view on tacos. A braised beef cheek taco was being offered the day I finally decided to show up. What took me so doggone long to get here???  

This retro bike stands ready to deliver your Dragonfly lunch

Dragonfly offers 12 (yes, you heard right) taco choices on their daily menu. After some intense internal debate, I called out for one Kung Pao chicken taco and one braised pork taco. I plan on eventually getting to them all (with the possible exception of chicken liver taco), but that may take numerous visits to achieve. No problemo … I can surely make that happen.  

It’s all about Dragonflys – even the outside lantern plays along

Yes, they do look seriously yummy don’t they? They were. Let’s just put that right out there. Really, really good. The flavors were somewhat familiar. It’s just the whole “rolling them up in a taco thing” that was throwing me off a bit. Pork roast as tender as Granny’s love — enhanced with apple, habanero, lime, and avocado. Spicy Kung Pao chicken accompanied by chopped carrot, daikon, and a zesty peanut sauce. I love Asian satay and I love my Granny, so I was totally on board with the whole nine yards. But where exactly does one find daikon in Fairhope, Alabama? I’ll have to ask Dragonfly’s chef/owner Doug Kerr about that someday soon. More power to him, I reckon.

I often refer to Fairhope as an “artsy Mayberry by the Bay.” We even have our own little barber shop — and a vintage barber’s pole — just like good old Floyd. (Insert your own joke here).

The barber shop is actually the Dragonfly’s next door neighbor. Seems like a minor detail, sure. Yet I was able to dine outside at the sidewalk picnic table and, at the same time, overhear all the latest gossip spilling out the barber’s wide-open front door. Talk about taking in the local atmosphere!  

The hot habanero peppers and lime juice were obviously fused into the fresh apple sauce-like topping (see above). Think of it as a kicked-up version of the old 60’s standby pork chops & apple sauce. The slow-braised pork was really moist and juicy, so I had to refrain from slurping up all the leftover liquid in the bottom of my cardboard “taco boat.” I’m still not sure where the avocado was hiding.  Anyone? Bueller??? 

The view from my picnic table – looking east on Fairhope Ave.  

OK, here’s a closer look at the Kung Pao Chicken (above) with carrot and daikon. Daikon (which is actually misspelled on the Dragonfly menu) is sometimes known as a white radish or Japanese radish. It doesn’t pack much flavor. It does impart some nice crunch.  The chicken was lean, the Chinese spice on point, and the flour tortilla fresh & warm.

We think you will soon be mysteriously drawn to the Dragonfly Food Bar. It’s hip, quirky, and creative. The decor is (like yours truly) a blend of retro and contemporary. Their tacos are mighty fine. Can’t wait to sink my teeth in the Lobster Corn Dog ($12) too. And the Crispy Blue Cheese Olives with Vodka Remoulade ($6). It ain’t cheap, folks. And it sure ain’t Taco Bell — or even Los Tacos. So check your cheap a$$, fast food mentality at the front door, please. You get what you pay for, people — and you’ll get a lot at the Dragonfly. But don’t just take my word for it. Swing on by sometime and take a swat for yourself.

Dragonfly Food Bar – 319 Fairhope Ave., Fairhope – 251 990-5722

www.dragonflyfoodbar.com