Although I follow the board closely, I don't get out to too many restaurants owing to having married an non-chowhound, and having with her two children. But this weekend an unusual coincidence of events got me out three nights in a row: A visit from out of town from my chow sister and chow brother-in-law, and the kids attending three dinnertime birthday parties on three successive evenings. Restaurants were selected for proximity to birthday parties.
Friday: after dropping one child off at the Baily's Crossroads Ultrazone for a laser tag party, the five of us including one chowpup stopped at Rabieng, the country cousin to Duangrats. The pan-fried cashew appetizer was very good and unusual, but watch out for the little red things if you are not tolerant of the very spicy. The rice cakes with spicy ground pork dip/spread was very tasty. The esen sausage was unremarkable. The chowpup had a tofu and ground pork soup that had little flavor or body. For entrees, I thought the highlight was my special fried cod with chili sauce. The fish was perfectly fried with a thin crust, and the sauce piquant. I sampled the chicken stewed with some kind of yellow liquid, with a subtle flavor I couldn't identify, topped by fried crispy noodles. The child claimed the crispy noodles, alas. Others said the pad thai--for which I lacked stomach space--was the best they had had. The sticky rice with mango dessert was comforting.
Saturday: after dropping both kids at the Fort Meyer Bowling Center, we finally were able to try Guajillo. We all thought the margaritas were terrific, although I regretted ordering mine before I had a chance to look over the menu, when I became tempted by the passionfruit margarita, and mojitos. I was not impressed by the ceviche. It was salty, and seemed to be mostly chopped cooked shrimp, rather than acidulated fish. I had the "Holy Mole," three mole sauces on chicken. As others have reported, the chicken was bland, but the moles were very worthwhile. Actually the three ranged in quality based on color--the darkest was the richest and most complex, with distinct chocolate, cinammon, and heat, the lightest was really just a tomatillo salsa verde, so far as I could tell, and there was one in between. Eventually, I just gave up on the chicken and finished off the best two moles with tortilla pieces. I can't comment on the other dishes, other than to say they consisted of a cheese quesadilla, three tacos of mixed fillings, and shrimp and goat cheese tacos.
Sunday: After leaving the kids watching "Lion King 1 and 1/2" on a big screen TV at a party in Springfield, we made our way to "Manilla Cafe," a Philipino storefront operation at a strip mall on Commerce Street in Springfield. There is an all-day, all-you-can-eat buffet on the weekends, but what we saw at 5:30 looked like it was pretty good at lunchtime, so we ordered off the menu. We picked up a few cubes of sweet sticky rice while we waited, and these were very good. The highlight of the ordered food was the garlic fried rice. The garlic was slightly toasted, and made everything else good. I haven't had Philipino before, but the "lumpia," pork-filled crispy rolls were very meaty and a bit greasy. They could have been lightened up with cabbage or some other vegetable. The chicken afrita was fair--stewed chicken parts with a tomato-peppercorn sauce. The shrimp and vegetable "pancit," was a rice noodle dish that was a blander version of something you might find in a Thai restaurant. There was an interesting combination of squash, green beans, and a coconut sauce. Finally, the three flavors of ice cream--mango, coconut, and avocado were colorful (well, not the coconut) but would have been difficult to distinguish in a darkened room.