Unfortunately, Research Boulevard has pretty much become one strip mall after another. Fortunately, the strip mall between Ohlen and Payton Gin has a Target as an anchor and easily recognizable landmark. It is in that locale you’ll find Sunflower, one of several Asian business in the center; other food establishments include Din Ho Chinese BBQ and Coco’s -- a bubble tea spot. It’s probably been five years since I’ve been to Sunflower (I should mention it’s a Vietnamese place), and this past Saturday night was a prime opportunity to revisit it.
Three of us arrived around 7 pm, and the place was seven-eighths full, so lucky for us, there was one table to accommodate us. We got water and a pot of hot tea, and studied the menu. After being slightly overwhelmed by it, we decided on three things, and at the end, we all agreed we had no regrets on any of it.
We started with the appetizer combo plate, which comes with shrimp, pork meatballs, and pork egg rolls; it’s accompanied by a plate of lettuce, shredded carrots, fresh mint, and a sweet and tangy fish sauce. The meatballs were fairly dense, almost like sausage patties, but tasty. The egg rolls are meant to be placed in the lettuce leaves with carrots and mint. Kind of messy with the sauce, but so what!
The lemongrass tofu is a great vegetarian dish. Really a great dish period, vegetarian or not. I wish the lemongrass flavor was more pronounced – I could really hardly taste it – but the garlic and chiles totally make up for it. It’s pieces of silken tofu, which are probably lightly dredged in rice flour or cornstarch and given a quick sauté with the lovely aromatics. Incredibly flavorful.
Last, the tamarind halibut. At $16, we were first a little hesitant, but after discovering that we all loved the flavor of tamarind, we decided to go for it. Chunks of halibut are very lightly battered and fried, and a really lovely tamarind glaze is poured all over. The fish was fresh, not greasy, and ever so crisp, and the twang from the sauce just exploded in your mouth.
Sunflower’s décor is hardly anything to speak about… then again, it IS in a strip mall. We had no problems with their service, though you sort of have to know that you just go to the counter (which is in the back of the restaurant) when you are ready to pay, as they don’t bring you a check to the table. Some of their reviews on Yelp make mention of less than stellar service, and while it IS all about the food, we know that service plays a part too. They could also be faulted for horribly under ripe tomatoes, which apparently is *de rigueur* there, according to my dining companions. But otherwise, it was a solid, tasty meal.
So why has it taken me so long to go back there?
(No website that I can find.)