Asian

537. Got Pho – December 5, 2021 – Ferndale, MI

Got Pho was a beacon of warmth on a blustery day!

The warmth came in the form of Got Pho’s Drunken Noodles with beef. The piping-hot noodles not only warmed my belly but delighted my taste buds. With their tender beef, rich sauce, fragrant Thai basil, and sautéed onion, green pepper, and bean sprouts, these Drunken Noodles were delicious! I ordered them without egg and still found them incredibly filling, with enough left over for a whole other meal.

Billing itself as Asian fusion, the Ferndale-based restaurant offers much more than those Drunken Noodles. As you may have guessed, its sells pho – seven different kinds, to be exact (including a vegan option for our plant-based friends). Got Pho’s menu also features Chinese favorites such as sesame and sweet and sour chicken; stir-frys and pad Thai; pad see ew and grilled short ribs . . . the list goes on and on! It’s a list worth checking out, and a restaurant most definitely worth a try.

172 W. Nine Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.gotphoferndale.com

500! Pho LineUp – February 7, 2021 – Clinton Township, MI

This is a big day for 100 Places in the D, because it’s time to highlight Visit Number 500: Pho LineUp!

What a restaurant worthy of this milestone! Pho LineUp’s Garlic Noodle with Shaken Beef was FANTASTIC when I experienced it via a February carryout visit. How could I not gobble up its tender beef, fresh vegetables, and irresistibly saucy, peppery noodles? The Cha Gio eggrolls were just as delicious, their crispy-fried rice paper rolls nestling pockets of flavorful pork and veggies.

As you may have deduced, Pho LineUp is a Vietnamese restaurant, but it serves other Asian fare, including Chinese dishes. It offers several iterations of pho; Vietnamese sandwiches; a variety of stir-fries and other dishes served with rice, rice vermicelli noodles, or egg noodles; and even American favorites such as wings, popcorn chicken, and fries. Its menu’s assortment of coffee, tea, and smoothies looks pretty on point, featuring pretty-hued drinks dotted with boba and topped with whipped cream. That drink section alone is a prime excuse for a revisit!

36831 Garfield Rd.

Clinton Township, MI 48035

www.pholineup.com

497. Saigon Market – January 30, 2021 – Madison Heights, MI

Saigon Market introduced me to the delights of rice vermicelli noodles and pickled ginger!

A January visit to the family-owned, Madison Heights-based grocery store brought both of these delicious (and now staple) items into my life. What a treat it was to stroll Saigon Market’s aisles and browse for such goodies! The shop’s interior is relatively small, but it’s mightily packed with Vietnamese grocery goods, meat, seafood, and produce. There’s even a carryout counter from which you can order freshly prepared báhn mì and other savory and sweet Vietnamese treats.

I was supposed to visit Vietnam last year; COVID squashed that plan, as it squashed so many others. But the beauty of living here in Metro-Detroit is the plethora of establishments that bring Vietnam to us. Thank you, Saigon Market, for being one of those wonderful establishments!

30573 John. R. Rd.

Madison Heights, MI 48071

www.newsaigonmarket.com

494. 168 Asian Mart – January 10, 2021 – Madison Heights, MI

168 Asian Mart’s website bills it as the “largest Asian market in the Midwest.” That’s a weighty claim – but totally believable given the dearth of goods available at this Madison Heights-based grocery store!

What a treat to explore such an expansive store during intense pandemic times that weren’t exactly brimming with novel experiences for me (at least not with ones I preferred to encounter). I picked up fresh produce; admired 168 Asian Mart’s extensive meat, seafood, bakery, and frozen food sections; and navigated shelf upon shelf of soups, spices, condiments, candies, noodles, and other dry grocery goods. My purchases included a container of red curry paste, a delightfully spicy chili oil, and a five-pound bag of (still unopened) glutinous rice. Here’s to cracking that bag open and making the mango sticky rice recipe that was the inspiration for buying it!

In addition to being a purveyor of grocery goods from across Asia, 168 Asian Mart has a food court. You can choose from a variety of fresh-prepared dishes and even have the kitchen cook up items purchased from the meat and seafood counter. I love that level of service!

32393 John R. Rd.

Madison Heights, MI 48071

www.168asianmarket.com

476. Kawaii Bubble Tea – June 21, 2020 – Clinton Township, MI

June2020Kawaii1 (2)June2020Kawaii2 (3)Summer heat can cause us to seek out refreshing moments of respite. Kawaii Bubble Tea is ready to facilitate such an experience!

The Clinton Township-based shop serves bubble tea, also known as boba tea. The drink originated in Taiwan and is an infusion of tea, sweetened milk and/or flavorings, ice, and tapioca pearls or jellies.

Kawaii offers fruit teas and milk teas. You choose your tea – black, green, or passion  – and up to two flavor enhancers. With the fruit teas, you can choose from flavors such as Strawberry, Lychee, Green Apple, and Mango; with the milk teas, options such as Bubblegum, Spiced Chai, and Cookies N Cream. Both fruit and milk teas can be poured over ice or blended with ice to make slushies.

And of course, there’s the pièce de résistance: the boba! At Kawaii, you choose from three different kinds of boba: the traditional pearl, which is dark and chewy and made from tapioca; the Popping Pearls, explained on its website as “juice balls that burst and disintegrate”; and Coconut Jellies, which are described as “firm and chewy” and of the three, closest resemble candy to me. The Popping Pearls and Coconut Jellies come in a variety of flavors.

Confession time: prior to visiting Kawaii, I’d not been a bubble tea person. I learned about it in high school and was excited to try it but found the tapioca pearls distracting rather than whimsical. I decided it wasn’t for me – until recently.

I found myself increasingly intrigued by Kawaii’s signage, the cute cartoon fox logo and “i”s dotted with hearts in its name. And from scoping out the shop’s menu online, I learned it served Thai tea. I was sold. I even decided I’d opt for the boba; experiencing them again would be an adventure. In this action-starved quarantine time, any adventure, large or small, was a win in my book!

I walked into the shop on a Sunday afternoon and took a spot in line, constituting one of the four customers allowed inside at once due to COVID-19 guidelines. A chalkboard mounted above the counter displayed the shop’s offerings, while the counter itself proffered brightly-colored macarons (a tantalizing possibility to ponder!) and other snacks.

I went for the large Thai tea served over ice and traditional tapioca pearls, downing half of the sweet, milky beverage on the car ride home. When the first tapioca pearl entered my mouth, I was surprised. I’d expected the eating of the boba to be a deliberate exercise, but many of them slid up the canal of the thick straw without effort.

I was also surprised by the fact that I didn’t mind the boba this time around. They struck me as mostly flavorless, with a faint hint of celery (anyone else taste that?). As I chewed and chewed and chewed (there were a lot of boba in my drink), I found them growing on me; they were pretty fun to eat. The tapioca pearls have distinctly moved out of the Distracting category and into the Whimsical. (Thanks for converting me, Kawaii!)

As of the writing of this post, Kawaii Bubble Tea is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. It is also currently carryout only; you can order online via its website or downloadable app or in-person at the shop. Please see its website for additional ordering guidelines – and enjoy the refreshing respite it offers!

43301 Garfield Rd.

Clinton Township, MI 48038

www.kawaiibubbletea.com

442. Go! Sy Thai – October 27, 2019 – Detroit, MI

October2019Go!SyThai1 (2)October2019Go!SyThai2 (3)Go! Sy Thai was bustling during my Sunday evening visit a few weeks ago – and for good reason. The Cass Corridor-based, fast-casual iteration of local restaurant chain Sy Thai proffers tasty food in plentiful portions.

Take the Curry Noodle dish that I ordered: it yielded two full meals for me – and then some (and I’m – by most people in my life’s considerations – an eater; I don’t mess around!).

This Curry Noodle dish was not only abundant in size, it was also supremely delicious with its richly flavored red coconut curry sauce slathering weighty rice noodles, fresh green onion and bean sprouts, crushed peanut, and the tender chunks of beef I opted for as my protein (I also chose to get the dish sans the egg it usually comes with).

At Go! Sy Thai, you order at the counter and wait for your food to be called out when it’s ready. The overhead menu showcases an ample list of offerings: classic Thai soups, small plates, and rice and noodle dishes.

For entrée dishes, you select the protein you’d like to be included (beef, chicken, shrimp, or tofu – or a vegetable mix in place of protein) and your desired spice level (Mild, Medium, Hot, X Hot, or Top of the Line).

For the spice level for my Curry Noodle with beef, I selected X Hot and was pleased with it: it was definitely hot in the way that I love, but it wasn’t so spicy that it was rendered inedible (a nearly nonexistent occurrence for me, the person who literally dumps cayenne pepper all over her popcorn – but STILL, props to Go! Sy Thai for rating their spice levels accurately! I know that when it comes down to it, spice level is subjective, but some places get it SO obviously wrong).

Another fun fact about this location of Go! Sy Thai: it’s neighbor to another local goodie, Tou & Mai; the establishments are connected by a short corridor. Tasty, plentifully-portioned Thai food and boba tea mere steps from one another is a set-up I can certainly get behind!

4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 103

Detroit, MI 48201

(with an additional Detroit location on Griswold St.)

www.gosythai.com

434. Tou & Mai – September 22, 2019 – Detroit, MI

September2019TouandMai1 (4)Tou & Mai, satisfying my Thai iced tea cravings!

I visited Thailand in January of this year and became enchanted with one of its signature drinks, the Thai iced tea – a yummy concoction of black tea and sweetened condensed milk. I’d not had one of those delectable babies since being back in the states and had vowed all summer that I’d hunt one down here at home.

It took me until a Sunday afternoon in late September (LOL) to finally focus on this objective. At least I achieved it before summer was officially over – and at least the weather was sunny and summer-like, with a high temperature in the upper 80s.

My Thai iced tea break at Tou & Mai occurred after a browsing session of shops – including Hugh, Source Booksellers, and Nora – in the Midtown/Cass Corridor area of Detroit.

While I knew exactly what I wanted, I browsed the tea shop’s menu while waiting in line. Tou & Mai’s signature offering is boba tea (also known as bubble tea), tea drinks with chewy tapioca pearls and/or jellies added to them.

Tou & Mai’s drink menu is separated into categories: Flavoured Fruit Tea (fruity drinks with a green-tea base); Flavoured Milk Tea (dairy-infused black teas); Real Fruit Smoothie (drink blends including varieties such as Red Adzucki Bean and Creamy Avocado); Extra Special Treat (next-level goodies such as the Litchi Mohito mocktail and the Peaches & Cream slushie infused with vanilla ice cream); and Vietnamese Caffé Latté (which, like the Thai iced tea, incorporate condensed milk).

The Toppings section of Tou & Mai’s menu includes such intriguing drink add-ins as Kiwi Popping Boba, Mango Popping Boba, Coffee Jellie, and Flan Custard.

Tou & Mai isn’t simply a boba tea shop; it’s also what it refers to on its website as an “Asian Mini Mart,” offering grocery items from Southeast Asia such as candy, cookies, condiments, and noodles. It’s also a place that celebrates the owners’ Hmong heritage, selling embroidered, hand-crafted goods made by Hmong artisans.

The Hmong people comprise an ethnic group with its origins in Southeast Asia. I’d admittedly been ignorant of the Hmong’s existence until a few months ago, when I watched an episode of CNN’s United Shades of America featuring them and their story.

The Hmong were recruited by the U.S. government to aid America in the fighting of the Vietnam war. Post-war, many of them fled their homes in fear of persecution for being American allies, and some ended up in the U.S., including here in the Metro-D. According to Tou & Mai’s website, a small Hmong community still exists here today.

So Tou & Mai is much more than the place that quite deliciously satisfied my appetite for Thai iced tea on a sunny September Sunday: it’s a boba tea shop/grocer/celebrator of culture. And it’s definitely worth a visit!

4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 102

Detroit, MI 48201

www.touandmai.com

381. Antihero – December 12, 2018 – Ferndale, MI

December2018AntiHero1 (4)Bringing the color and flavor explosions: that’s Antihero for ya! I visited the recently-opened Japanese restaurant on Nine Mile Road in downtown Ferndale back in mid-December.

Antihero’s restrooms: they’re what’s bringing the color explosion. These are quite possibly the most awesome restrooms I have ever seen, boasting vibrantly-hued, cartoon-esque, panoramic murals that make you happy you had to go pee.

Both times I was in the ladies’ room during my visit, I encountered a fellow patron as she walked in, exclaimed over the murals, and pulled out her phone to take a picture. I should have taken a picture of the ladies’ room myself to include here – but really, the art is worth experiencing yourself!

The dining room of Antihero features more subdued – yet just as beautiful – mural artwork. The space is dimly lit, chic elegance, with starburst chandelier lighting and blond wooden booths and communal tables.

A collection of craft cocktails (with fun names such as Late Night Party Store and Dandy) helms Antihero’s drink menu, which is rounded out by selections of draft and bottled beers.

The food menu consists of small plates, noodle dishes, and a hibachi section with meat, seafood, and veggie selections that you can cook yourself on a hibachi grill brought to the table.

I was intrigued by the hibachi offerings (partially because items from that selection came with the whimsically-monikered Fuck Yea sauce), but I ultimately opted for two small plates for my main course: the Smashed Fingerling Potato and the Smoked Brisket Bun.

The Smashed Fingerling Potato dish was BOMB! HERE is the flavor explosion I was talking about. These potatoes with their creamy kewpie mayo, yakisoba sauce, chopped nori, and scallions were so richly delicious. I’m super impressed whenever I find vegetarian dishes that are as rich and sumptuous – or more so – as meat-based dishes; the Smashed Fingerling Potato fits into this category.

The Smoked Brisket Bun was also tasty with its incredibly tender beef complemented by a zesty chili-hoisin sauce and a pillowy-soft bun.

And then, there was dessert! I couldn’t pass up the Mochi Donut with its orange-oil-and-apple-cider glaze. The donuts were freshly-fried heaven, with an intriguingly chewy texture lent from the mochi rice paste they were made from.

In short, this visit to Antihero was most definitely a win! It’s no wonder the place is great: it’s owned by the same local restaurateurs behind the fantastic Ferndale staples Imperial and Public House.

231 W. Nine Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.antiheroferndale.com

297. Ima – December 17, 2017 – Detroit, MI

December2017Ima1 (2)December2017Ima2 (2)December2017Ima4 (3)Today’s post recounts Visit Number 297 to a new-to-me, locally-owned place in the Metro-Detroit area since starting this blog in February 2014.

Number 297! It’s looking like Number 300 will be hit before the end of 2017 [Cue confetti]!!!!

I can’t believe I’ve covered so much ground in just under four years, yet I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface – especially when it comes to trying new restaurants, bars, and shops in Detroit itself. Sunday’s visit to Ima was my 72nd visit to a new-to-me Detroit establishment since starting 100 Places in the D, and still there are so many intriguing places in the city on my to-do list – 110 and counting! I’m excited by the fact that there are so many amazing restaurants, bars, shops, parks, and venues to try; simultaneously, I’m impatient to see them all.

Can you relate to that feeling, that mixture of anticipation and excitement and impatience? Perhaps you, like me, are a Metro-Detroiter with a list as long as your arm of all the cool places in the city you’d like to visit, and it seems like it takes you forever to cross just one item off the list. I feel you on that! Pursuing dreams – even the smallish dream of trying a new restaurant – requires more discipline than I always expect it should.

Regardless of where you live, of what you want to accomplish, however big or small, the actual logistical doing of those things can be scary – the struggle is real! I hope you’re able to spur yourself on to achieve those things you want to achieve, at whatever pace you’re able to proceed at, whether moved by motivation or inspiration or frustration or impatience (hopefully by the former two feelings over the latter two).

I’ll thank God for that sense of impatience in me; it’s what drove me down to Corktown last Sunday after reading several issues of Hour Detroit and collecting more places to visit. I could’ve easily eaten lunch at home, but I pushed myself into that place of discomfort (my fear of driving in the city persists – will that ever go away?) and headed down to Michigan Avenue.

Upon surviving my vehicular anxiety (phew!), I parked on a snowy side street near Ima and stepped inside its warm, snug interior. The noodle- and rice-bowl-centric restaurant with a cuisine that’s been described as Japanese fusion was populated by a number of patrons despite having only been open for a half hour. Greeted by a friendly server who suggested I take a counter seat, I picked one facing a white divider wall that fronted the kitchen.

I’d previously studied the menu of udon noodle dishes, rice bowls, and appetizers including shrimp-stuffed dumplings, edamame, and tacos with wakame (seaweed), green hot sauce, and “jicama shells” (who knew jicama could be fashioned into taco shells?). So I knew exactly what I wanted: the Golden Curry rice bowl with smoked pork loin.

My meal came out quickly, and I was eager to dig in to the vibrant bowl of steaming curry. It was then that I noticed my utensil choices: spoon or chopsticks.

Oh, man! I hadn’t eaten with chopsticks in the longest, but I decided to tough it out with those wooden sticks rather than embarrass myself asking for a fork, and the chopstick finagling got easier as I went. That Golden Curry was worth the struggle!

The rich curry sauce was accompanied by a flavorful nori furikake seasoning and paired well with the sticky rice, cauliflower, edamame, scallions, sauteed greens, and pink pickled ginger. The thinly sliced pork loin was perfection, tender as can be. What a filling, fresh, warming dish! I was able to take half of the ample serving home to enjoy later (sans chopsticks, admittedly).

My visit to Ima was much too quick. I’d regretted choosing the counter seat facing the white kitchen divider and abutting up to another counter seat along the wall to my right; it made me feel claustrophobic, so I didn’t linger. I should’ve squeezed into a spot along the well-populated counter fronting the window – the view of Michigan Ave. would’ve felt so much more expansive! Or maybe I could’ve negotiated a spot at one of the two long communal tables; there was another woman eating there solo. I’d definitely recommend sitting in one of those two areas if you visit Ima; don’t make the mistake I made and sit facing a blank wall when you could be people-watching and soaking in the ambiance. Going out of your way to cross a place off of your to-visit list is much too special for that!

2015 Michigan Ave.

Detroit, Michigan 48216

www.imanoodles.com