HARD to believe, but this endlessly cool spring will end, and there will probably be dog days when you won’t want to cook, or go out to eat, either. The following three may have the answer. All were reviewed as restaurants within the past few years, but their food is also available for delivery or takeout, and not least among their attractions is the fact that some of their dishes are among the city’s rarest and most interesting. Coincidentally, all three owner-cooks are women, and all are warm, friendly and accommodating.
Lao Thai moved from Selkirk Avenue to St. Mary’s Road and back again to a Selkirk Avenue location that has been spiffied up by a coat of cheerful red paint and some attractive Asian artifacts. However, the seating is still limited to four six-seater booths and two tiny tables, which makes its city-wide delivery policy particularly attractive. The minimum order is $20, with a $5 delivery charge.
The cooking, which has always been good, seems to be in a constant state of improvement, and now offers some of the best Lao-Thai food in town, including a few dishes that I haven’t found elsewhere — at prices, moreover, that are almost ridiculously low, with almost nothing over $10.
One new addition to the menu is the fabulous Ham Nam Wrap, which combines crunchy shreds of coconut with ham, rice, cucumbers and cilantro, to be wrapped in a lettuce leaf and eaten out of hand. I’m addicted to the slightly sweet and very chewy strips of Seen-Hang jerk pork, and to some old, slightly altered old favourites, i.e. the chicken with a nippy, lemongrass glaze that now comes in small chunks instead of on skewers. I’ve loved the crisply deep fried Shrimp Thai Fry in the past, and now I also love the panfried Cilantro Shrimp with lemongrass, onions and ginger.
There are nine soups to choose from, and all I’ve tried have been wonderful. Kao Peak Sen with rice noodles is as mild and soothing as your grandmother’s chicken soup. Thome Yam zings with galangal and lime juice, and the house signature Souk Gai is a gingery and chili-spiked marvel.
There’s the usual range of colourful curries. One of the best is the red Gang-Pet with chicken and veggies in a sauce creamy with coconut milk. Dishes come with a choice of chicken, beef or shrimp, but many are also available in vegetarian versions.
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La Rica Vicky doesn’t deliver, but its Peruvian specialties are the only ones in town, and so good it’s worth the effort to pick them up. Unless you speak Spanish, communication can be difficult, but most of the menu (with English descriptions) is accessible at ClickMyRoll.ca. Just enter La Rica Vicky into the restaurant search window and you can view the menu and order online.
Potatoes turn up in almost every dish, and the one I’m most mad about is the causa rellena, a slab of cool, lime-infused mashed potatoes, filled with tuna salad, drizzled with house-made mayo and topped by a slice of hard boiled egg and black olives ($8.75). Actually, the tuna part is no longer listed on the current menu, but if you order at least two portions they’ll oblige and put it back in. The wonderful basa ceviche in lime juice is garnished with toasted corn kernels and (like most of the dishes here) with huge slices of white and sweet potatoes ($10 for the appetizer portion), and the delicately crusted beef empañada (not listed on the online menu) is another must ($5).
Among the main courses I’ve liked ($15 to $18) are the superbly flavourful adobo de pollo, a vinegar and red pepper-marinated quarter-chicken, with irresistible glossy brown skin; and the seco de carne of beef stewed with garlic, onions and cilantro. Other entrées I’ve enjoyed in the past were sautéed basa, aji de gallena — a relatively mild dish of chicken in a creamy sauce — and the lomo saltado of soy-sauced beef stir-fried with onions and tomatoes and served over fries.
Closed Friday evening and all day Saturday.
Fans of the late, lamented Sa’aadal Kheyr should be happy to learn that they can still feast on Roda Guled’s savoury Somali specialties, although these days it’s by delivery on Friday and Saturday only. All it takes is one day’s notice, and a delivery charge of $10, but with no charge for orders over $50. She will be happy to email you a menu or you can discuss your choices over the phone.
The beautifully seasoned samosas ($1.50) and falafel (four for $1) may lose some of their crispness during transport, but a few minutes in a hot oven restores much of it. The main courses of halal meats (most $12 to $15) needed no reviving. My personal favourite is the moist, garlicky kebabs, but I also like the paprika and cardamomseasoned stewed beef, the lightly chipotle-spiked chicken, the cinnamon and cardamom-scented goat, and the salmon steaks in a tangy-sweet vinegar and molasses glaze.
Dishes come with either rice pilaf or couscous, both remarkably flavourful. Don’t miss the addictive, chapati-like flatbread, and if you’d like to eat Somali style, use pieces of it to scoop up the food.
To see the location of this restaurant as well as others reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press, please see the map below or click here.
Restaurants marked with a red flag were rated between 0.5 to 2.5 stars; yellow flags mark those rated between 2.5 to 4 stars; and green flags mark those rated rated 4.5 to 5 stars. Locations marked with a yellow dot were not assigned a star rating.