Here we are with another edition of Whiskey & Soba goes to Mai Lee, St. Louis' best Vietnamese restaurant, and tries stuff he's never had before.
Things kicked off with a top secret off the menu item: salt and pepper frog legs. Owner Qui Tran knows my affinity for all things with their salt and pepper dipping sauce - you must try the S&P calamari, soft shell crab, and/or shrimp - so when he asked if we'd be down for S&P frog legs, the answer was a resounding yes. Don't fear the frog legs. They taste just like chicken. If I blindfolded you like we were in 50 Shades of Grey and fed you bites of chicken and frog, you'd never know the difference.
Forget about the French-influenced Vietnamese dishes - give me more of these Jewish-Vietnamese dishes! This is a Southeast Asian latke. The #50 Banh Tom Chien is made of shredded sweet potato is wrapped around shrimp then deep fried. Like most Southeast Asian fried dishes, it comes with lettuce to wrap around it. That way you can pretend it's not bad for you!
I always poll Twitter before I head to Mai Lee since everyone has different favorites. One of the more intriguing recommendations was for #145 Dau Hu Sot Ca, a vegetable and tofu stir fry served in a tomato sauce. Tomato sauce? Vietnamese restaurant? I was hesitant about ordering this, but Qui assured me it was good and, as usual, he was right. This is killer. I've never had another Asian dish with a similar sauce.
You've seen this off the menu special in previous Mai Lee posts: it's the seafood charred rice. Get it.
#121 Tom Rang Muoi is a dish that would be perfect after a long night of drinking. Shrimp are stir fried with butter, garlic, onions, and scrambled eggs. It may sound strange and may not be the prettiest dish, but it is addictive.
A friend and Mai Lee expert insisted (in the same way Tony Soprano "insisted") that I try the often overlooked Chinese menu, so I picked General Tso's Chicken. This was the last plate to arrive at the table but that didn't stop it from being swallowed up instantly. The quality is much higher than your typical American Chinese restaurant, which is to be expected, and it has these monster slices of ginger in it. I come from a long line of ginger fiends, so that definitely gave this dish some bonus points.
Mai Lee. It's the best.
8396 Musick Memorial Dr
St. Louis, MO 63144