I visited a newly opened Thai restaurant for lunch today here in the South Bend/Mishawaka, IN area. After being seated I begann perusing the menu trying to replicate some of the recommendations from various Thai posts on Chowhound Chicago. I began to get frustrated because the menu appeared to be heavily Americanized in their descriptions of the dishes. I rapidly speed-dialed a fellow Chowhound in Chicago (gwiv) and asked for some recommendations. He suggested I try the larb, sticky rice, and fresh spring rolls. I was unable to find the larb and sticky rice on the menu.
The owner came to wait on me and when I asked if she had larb, she responded with raised eyes and a smile that sent a message that I was not a normal American. I think I hit a soft spot. She asked if I had been to Thailand, and I told her I had not but had eaten several authentic dishes in Chicago and I was hoping that some of them were served here. I explained that I was aware that many ethnic cuisines "Americanized" the menu and I was more interested in the authentic and secret menus served. She smiled and then she told me that if I could give her some notice she would be glad to fix it for me. Then she said, we're not real busy and if you aren't in a hurry I will make it for you. I said great. She asked if I wanted sticky rice with that. Which of couse I did. I ordered a spring roll but ordered the wrong one and ended up an egg roll (my error).
Two deep fried egg rolls were brought. These were nothing exciting, but the chili sauce which I asked for improved the taste. The fish sauce was rather weak in flavor. My plate of chicken larb was brought. Great flavor and texture. The essence of cilantro with the tartness of lime was apparent. A dab chili paste added to an already great flavor. The sticky rice was good and meshed well with the larb. I was then brought a dish she called "beef jerky". Beef jerky was cubed strips of a dry fried beef with great flavor. Chewy but not quite a dry as I would have expected. A couple of the pieces had some extra fat on them that was crispy with a smooth texture and a nice beefy flavor that mixed well with the meat while chewing. A great lunch.
I found it interesting how in this god-forsaken culinary wasteland of South Bend an authentic ethnic meal could be had. I do plan to go back over the next few weeks to further develop a relationship with this restaurant. Its definitely worth expressing an interest in off menu items in small restaurants.
302 E. Russ St.