I am being solitary this weekend, but not by choice. J. the Fiance is, of course, in California. Dave the Roommate is spending the weekend with a friend. Madge is spending time with her potential future husband. But, it's all okay because I had therapy yesterday to work through it all.
In order to deal with my abandonment issues, I decided to head to Chandler to run an errand and treat myself to a nice dinner. My goal was to try the Lotus Grill, but since that was closed or dead, I drove down Chandler Blvd. in search of eats. I am sure I put the fear of God into the people in the car behind me when I slammed on the breaks to make the left turn into Cyclo, which I caught out of the corner of my eye.
Cyclo, like a lot of restaurants these days, sits in a non-descript strip mall on a major street. I pulled in and parked, skirting around the people heading into the drugstore next to the restaurant. In front of the entrance to Cyclo is a "cyclo," a pedicab with three wheels and a hood over the seating area.
I walked into the restaurant and noticed that the place was packed; not a vacant table to be had. The space is fairly small, with about 10 tables and a multi-light streetlight placed in the center of the restaurant. The interior was fairly dark, with a mural on one wall, a huge fish tank on the other, and lots of little decorations all over. Gentle guitar music was playing in the background.
I stood at what looked like the host station right as I entered. Three men were waiting for a table and I saw four staff members on the other side of restaurant talking amongst themselves and looking a bit worried. They kept appearing and disappearing, talking amongst themselves and then disappearing in the kitchen. One of the tables emptied of its patrons and a bus staff member cleared the table. It was reset and someone came over to tell me to take the table. Since the table would have set three people easily, I assumed it was going to the three men who were waiting. I said to the staff that the men had been there before me, but she stated the table was for one or two people. It was an uncomfortable situation made even more uncomfortable when the men, clearly feeling slighted, abruptly left, saying a few choice words along the way.
I did take the table and made myself comfortable. I was handed a menu and decided on my choices.
My first selection was the Veggie Spring Rolls ($3.50). I was torn between having soup or an entree, but my eye gravitated to the Crispy Lemongrass Chicken ($8.00), so I chose that. Additionally, I couldn't resist the Spicy Garlic Green Beans ($6.00). I also ordered a Diet Coke ($2.00).
While I waited, I tuned up the digital camera to take a few photos as the dishes came out. The place, however, is fairly small and the lighting is very dim, so a flash would have blinded just about everyone. So, I tried to take a photo without the flash and the results were unacceptable. Alas, no photos. However, I did get an interesting shot that is almost all black except for this blurred image that I swear looks like it could be Regis Philben.
The Veggie Spring Rolls arrived. Two decent-sized rice paper wrapped rolls arrived accompanied by a small bowl of peanut sauce. I liberally dunked the first roll into the peanut sauce and took a bit. It was quite tasty. Tofu, rice noodles, and a few slivered veggies were packed into the roll. Tasty, crunchy and fresh. The peanut sauce was smooth and creamy and just delicious.
Only a few minutes passed from when I finished my rolls and my green beans arrived. The scent was intoxicating: garlic, chili, pepper, and soy sauce covering long, tender-crisp green beans. Wow! I took my first bite and the taste was as wonderful as the smell. These were simply outstanding. The beans were excellent, in perfect condition, and handled beautifully. They also had a smoky aftertaste with a nice chili kick that made my lips tingle.
I had had a few bites of the beans when my Crispy Lemongrass Chicken arrived along with a small bowl of Jasmine rice. Again, I was hit with an amazing aroma. I could smell the heavy use of garlic and ginger. Yum. The chicken had been cut into small, bite-sized pieces, battered and fried and then tossed with chili, soy, garlic and ginger. The batter was still crunchy and the chicken moist and flavorful. Some of the ginger slices were still on the plate and they had their wonderful, pungent flavor when they hit my mouth. In essence, this was a dish that thrilled the senses.
The Jasmine Rice was very good as well. It was fragrant and tender and very well cooked as it had some bind to it, but wasn't a glutenous mess.
I finished my meal and waited for my bill, admiring my Regis Philben ghost shot on the screen of my camera. The total for the bill was $21.08, which I considered an decent value for the food I got.
I give Cyclo a big thumbs up, but there were just a few minor points that I think need mention. First, the service was very spotty and getting refills on drinks was a bit annoying. It didn't ruin the meal, but could be tightened up a bit. Also, the portions seem rather small. I didn't leave the restaurant hungry by any stretch, but the portion size seemed a bit small. Again, not a deal breaker, but something to mention so there are no unwarranted expectations.
I will be going back to Cyclo because I want to try their soups and the Mint Chicken or the Chicken and Pineapple Curry. No qualms about going back at all, despite a few misteps.
Heck, I might even run into Regis on my next visit!
Cyclo Vietnamese Cuisine
1919 West Chandler Boulevard (Chandler & Dobson)
Chandler, AZ 85224