Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hai Ky on Oltorf & New Sweet Treats on S. Lamar

Let's start off by saying that I DID go for a 45 minute walk this morning, in the 70-something degree weather, this fine January morning. Which left me hungry. Fortunately, I had already arranged to meet a friend for pho, as other friends at work yesterday were talking about it, giving me that craving.

Hai Ky is a great little inexpensive place to meet your needs. Located on Oltorf, just before Burleson, it's in a relatively non-descript strip mall. We go in, sit, and are immediately brought menus, and asked what we want to drink. Having discussed it on the way there, we knew we wanted the crispy eggrolls and rangoon to start off, but we need another minute for the entrees. The very mellow (but polite) waiter (oh yeah, there is a head shop in the same strip center...) comes right back with the waters, and takes the rest of our orders. I will have the #13 -- Pho Tai, which is with eye round steak, and my friend has opted for #82 -- Mongolian Tofu.

The appetizers come fast... still hot from the fryer, but not just dripping with grease. The rangoon are shaped differently than how I've seen them in the past -- these are in half-moons, like dumplings, rather than in a wonton/tortellini shape. The cream cheese inside is screaming hot, but they are delicious. The eggrolls are tightly rolled, with a kinda mushy blend of pork, shrimp, and veggies. I think it's all pureed together, then put into the wrappers. They're tasty, but nothing to get excited about.

Our main dishes come when we're still blowing on the appetizers to cool them down. My #13 pho bowl is a large steaming bowl of broth, with thin vermicelli rice noodles on the bottom, very thin cuts of eye round steak, some veggies, and a side plate with a lime wedge, fresh bean sprouts, thai basil, and sliced jalapenos. It's a lot of food. Come to think of it, the waiter did ask me if I wanted the small or large when I ordered... didn't know I had a choice! I opted for the small. I still have leftovers. The broth is nice, you can taste the star anise in it. The meat is good and fresh, by now completely submerged in the broth, and hence cooked all the way through; when it was brought to the table, I could see bits of pink in the meat where the hot broth hadn't hit it yet. I use my fork to get at the noodles, and the Asian soup spoon to slurp at the broth. Nice contrast of textures and flavor.

The #82 tofu dish is quite lovely too. There is a next of crispy fried egg noodles on the bottom of the plate, topped with 1/4 inch slabs of the tofu, which has been nicely char-grilled, like they do pork. Great flavor to it between the grilling and the sauce, and lots of sauteed green onions and chives accompany it. So as we're sitting there eating, my friend asks me if I've been to the new Pie Slice bakery on S. Lamar. No, I hadn't, nor have I been to the new Moonlight Bakery, also on S. Lamar. So we hatch a plan... she'll pay for our lunch (a whopping $16 and change), and I'll pay for our desserts. And off we go!

We go to Moonlight first... sort of in an odd location, next to Batteries Plus, but it must be working for them, as we were part of a small wave of 4 separate customers that descended at the same time. Painted in nice bright colors, a lovely glass case of the day's treats welcomes you. There were cookies, brownies, cinnamon rolls (2 kinds), palmiers, croissants, kolaches... the eyes got REAL big, and the stomach said "oh no!". After much oohing and ahhing, we settled on a palmier and chocolate croissant, which we split, and a couple cookies for me to take to our hairdresser friend, who I had an appointment with in an hour. I've nibbled on the palmier, which is heavenly! It's really crisp (no sogginess here!), buttery, and flaky, just as it should be. I only took a little bite of the croissant so far because I am so full, but it too seems lovely -- you can see all the layers, and it tastes like good quality semi-sweet chocolate on the inside.

Then up the street to Pie Slice... these 2 spots are no more than a half mile apart, and both on the west side of Lamar. (For those who know where the Horseshoe Lounge is, Pie Slice is in the building directly north of HL, between it and La Feria.) Pie Slice offers pies, cakes, muffins, cookies, and a few other sweets, as well as having a full-service menu with everything from breakfast tacos to pizza to sandwiches and salads. The desserts in the case looked fantastic. It didn't take too long though to decide on a piece ($4.25) of the chocolate espresso pie. A rather generous sized piece was cut, put into a box, and off we went. So back to my house, were we we dove right in! It was fantastic. Now those who know me, know I am picky about pies because of the crust -- a crust makes or breaks the pie. I love baking my own pies, because I really like making the crust, call me crazy! This pie had a fantastic crust -- chocolate chips, walnuts, and a touch of cinnamon in it. And you could taste some butter, though I think it probably had some shortening in it too for the flakiness. The filling was a dense chocolate mousse with a noticeable espresso flavor, but not overpowering. Then, it was topped off with real whipped cream. OH MY GOD. I really can't wait to go back and try more. A friend who I saw over the weekend has been in there a couple of times for the "real" food, and had good things to say about it, so that bodes well. (Sorry, photo's a bit out of focus.)

Meanwhile, I have eaten more than intended today! I think I need to go for another walk before I eat another sweet potato burger and fruit for dinner! Oh, and my hairdresser friend gobbled down the Moonlight cookies and said they were fantastic too. So while E. Oltorf has always been a Vietnamese food destination, S. Lamar is becoming the homegrown-bakeries hot spot! All the better for me, in my 'hood!

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