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Restaurants & Bars 5

Sao Mai-Broken Rice-Wheaton

tony | Jan 22, 200309:06 AM

There is zero décor in this cavernous space located in, you guessed it, a strip mall, but that’s ok. The first thing you notice is the condiment selection on the table. Fish sauce twice, soy sauce, hoisin, sriracha, garlic chili paste, chili oil, and a jar of pickled jalapenos.

We started with spring rolls stuffed with a special house made pork sausage, shrimp, basil, mint, cucumber, sprouts, etc. This pork was odd, but in a good way. It was finely ground, seasoned and colored with tumeric. Its texture was that of an emulsification for lack of a better term, or like a firm skinless hotdog cooked and then finished on the grill. The sauce was also noteworthy. Thickened chicken stock with chunks of pork and peanuts, it was salty and sweet at the same time.

I went with Broken Rice with grilled beef. Little nubbins of rice broken during the milling process became peasant food while the full grains were preferred by upper classes according to the notes on the menu. The texture was very sticky and firm but there is no difference in flavor. The beef seasoned with soy, red chilies and green onions was sliced thin and grilled. This was a very basic dish of meat and rice with a few slices of cucumber and sad tomatoes on the side. This is where the condiment selection comes into play. Some fish sauce, chili oil, soy and a few pickled peppers really perk this dish up.

The wife chose vermicelli noodles with the previously mentioned pork product. Served with the usual suspect vegetables, it was a good bowl of noodles for a decent price. Both of our entrees were served with the basic sugar and vinegar enhanced fish sauce sprinkled with a few slivered carrots and radishes. Freshly squeezed limeade with soda was the beverage of choice.

A wide selection of pho with various meats is available along with many seafood choices including eels, lobster, clams, crab and squid. There were also quite a few selections including grilled and fried shrimp paste. Not too many desserts, but a wide selection of tropical fruit shakes with choices of red bean, green bean, longan, durian and lotus seed.

Sao Mai
242 E. Geneva Rd.
Wheaton, Il

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