September 24, 2011

Jasmine Rice

We follow Philly restaurant news through a number of sources, which keep us up to date on openings, closings, special menus, and upcoming events.  Oftentimes J and I will discuss something posted on Foobooz or MealTicket, and many of our conversations eventually lead us to new spots to eat.  However, sometimes the little guys slip through the cracks, and we end up finding them on our own.  Just a few blocks away from us, on a mostly residential street, is a tiny restaurant space, formally inhabited by a long-standing Polish restaurant (which we visited several years ago with our part-Polish grandmother).  Recently it changed hands, and in the past week or two opened as a mini Thai BYOB.  Thai food isn't Philly's specialty, so we're always checking out the newest options.

Balloons for Grand Opening

Jasmine Rice draws in clientele by being a bright spot on an otherwise dark street.  While we haven't seen any mention in the press about its opening, nor any public advertisement, it brought in a steady stream of customers throughout the entire duration of our meal.  Available seating for just 40, groups of 2-4 are easily accommodated; I wouldn't come here with a big group.

Since the menu isn't online-- click for improved visibility.

The menu offers a good array of appetizers, soups, and salads, as well as a number of noodle dishes, curries, fried rice, etc- the typical items you would expect at a Thai restaurant.  Prices are all very reasonable- sometimes it seems that BYOB restaurants jack up the prices of food to recover lost income from alcohol, which annoys me.  The service was always sufficient- and efficient, considering there were only two waitresses for the whole room.  The table next to us seemed to deal with a few snafus- a mix up in the kitchen, a bit of a wait, but the waitstaff was very apologetic and compensated via a reduced bill.


We ordered two starters to split, the first being the Chao Phraya Express ($5.99).  Two rice paper wrappers were filled with carrots, lettuce, scallions, cucumber, cold noodles, basil and a butterflied shrimp and tightly rolled for easy dipping into the provided plum sauce.  The opposing textures of the crispy vegetables and soft wrapper played well together, and the salty sweet sauce gave a necessary flavor kick.


I had my eye on the Crab Nuggets ($6.99), which arrived as a number of fried dumpling-like bites, with a small pouch of crab and shrimp filling surrounded by a thin crispy shell.  The flavor of the seafood held its own, and the fried shell melted in my mouth.  The accompanying pickled ginger sauce tasted like honey, and soaked into the seafood and wonton wrapper, gave a unique sweetness.


J ordered the Jatujak Stir Fry, but must have miscommunicated the order to our waitress (I think pointing was necessary for that odd name), so ended up with the Ginger Garlic Stir Fry.  The mix-up wasn't a huge problem for us, as the garlicky sauce on this simple dish was flavorful and the huge pile of crisp stir-fried veggies was much appreciated.  The vegetarian version comes with tofu, and is the least expensive option at $11.99 (add a dollar or two and you can get chicken or shrimp).  Bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, carrots, and broccoli were combined with large triangles of pressed, pan-fried tofu and everything was tossed into the sauce.  The light soy based broth definitely lived up to its title- garlic and ginger were strong throughout, but a late heat in each bite gave it an extra pop of flavor.


I went with my favorite Thai dish of all- red curry, also choosing the vegetarian option ($11.99).  More of a soup-like dish, the red curry broth was rich, spicy, and heavy on the coconut milk- just how I like it.  Every bite of the bell peppers, bamboo shoots, and chunks of tofu left me with a pleasant burn, and the Thai basil added an extra zing.  Both dishes came with a side of rice, which was broken off in spoonfuls and left to soak in the curry for a few seconds- I really just want to drown all of my food in this sauce.  While J knows Thai food isn't her favorite cuisine, I called this dish "my happy food," and could easily eat it several times a week.



For under $40, this meal was an all-around winner- ample portions, interesting flavors and cooking styles, simple but adequate service, affordable, and located just steps from home.  While we don't often do repeat restaurant visits, I know Jasmine Rice will be at the top of my list for a casual dinner- it would also be great for visitors or date nights.  Plus, we still need to try that Jatujak Stir Fry!

Jasmine Rice
305 S. 16th Street

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