Our recent visit to St. Louis to spend time with my wife's family involved food and exploration… For a change of pace, my wife's sister Bonnie and her husband Bill suggested a popular local Vietnamese restaurant. It had been a long time since we had any Vietnamese cuisine so we were enthusiastic to give it a try!
Mai Lai Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant in Brentwood Missouri is actually built into the ground floor of a parking garage and parking for customers is free... The interior of the restaurant is a large and bustling place with a lot going on… The dining area is expansive and this popular restaurant and bar is a busy place!
Lee Tran, the founder of Mai Lee Restaurant first opened for business in another location in 1985 with a full Chinese menu. Over time she introduced Vietnamese dishes and expanded to this location. She opened the first Vietnamese Restaurant in the St. Louis area.
My wife remembered the great Vietnamese Iced Coffee that we used to order when we lived in Chicago, so she ordered it at Mai Lee. Basically, its quality medium or dark blend coffee processed through a French press with hot water and then added to a glass with ice and condensed milk. She did enjoy this special treat! ($4.00)
The ladies weren’t too hungry so there was a lot of focus on the appetizers. It was all about the spring rolls! We had 2 orders of Goi Cuon with shrimp, pork and vegetables wrapped in rice paper. ($3.95 per order with 2 spring rolls each) Then we had Goi Cuon Ga Nuong, grilled chicken spring rolls. ($5.25) Finally, we had Goi Cuon Thit Nuong, BBQ pork spring rolls. ($5.25) We enjoyed all of them and we agreed that we could have made a meal just from a few more of these delicious appetizers…
My better half strayed from our foray into Vietnamese cuisine to order a bowl of one of her favorite soups. It was Mai Lee’s version of classic Chinese Hot and Sour Soup. ($4.50) It was loaded with egg, wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots and it was very good.
Bonnie and my wife split a Banh Mi Thit (Vietnamese Pork Sandwich) for their dinner. ($4.50) Not only was it a good buy, it was a great sandwich too. It consisted of Vietnamese-style pork, pate, mayonnaise, cucumber, pickles, jalapenos and cilantro served on a nice roll.
For my entrée, I ordered the Truu Xao Xa Ot. ($18.95) This is a lamb stir fry with hot chili and lemon grass. There was a lot of onion as well and while I’m not big on large pieces of onion, they were easy to eat around. I loved the flavor and heat offered by my entrée but in my opinion the lamb was tougher than it should have been…
Bill ordered the Mi Xao Thap Cam – Vietnamese-style Lo Mein for his meal. ($15.95) It came with a combination of meat and shrimp. He’d had this dish before at Mai Lee and he knew he liked it!
In summary, we wish that we had a restaurant like this anywhere in the Knoxville Tennessee metropolitan area!
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