Welcome to Round 1 of what I like to call, “Using The Big Green as an Excuse to Try Out New Restaurants.” Working title.
But let me explain. I spent a little over six months living in Washington, D.C. during last spring and summer. D.C. is a great city, and one of the many things it’s known for is its ethnic food. With the help of Yelp!, I experienced some pretty great meals – everywhere from food trucks to kinda fancy (but still within my intern budget) sit-down places and every cuisine from the ubiquitous Thai to Vietnamese, Indian, Middle Eastern and Ethiopian. I miss it. I want to go back. But I can’t afford the plane ticket.
Solution? I’m going to seek out the best ethnic places in East Lansing and Lansing, take one for the team, and go try them out. Hopefully they’ll be places you haven’t ever been to or didn’t even know existed, and you might be inspired to try one out. If not you can just be jealous of me.
Round 1 led me to Thai Village in Lansing, located at 400 S. Washington Square right near the capitol building.
I think that Lansing is underrated. I don’t know if it’s the distance, the number of options for food, the entertainment here in East Lansing, or the fact that there are not many students wandering around downtown — which the rest of us take that as some sign that we’re not allowed — but most people I know never bother to take the five-minute drive downtown.
I talked to a friend to the other day who said he had literally never been to Lansing, and he’s been here for four years. It’s kind of a shame because there’s a ton of cool stuff down there. The capitol is awesome, and you can take tours for free. There’s cool events like Oktoberfest, which just went on last month. There are coffee shops and places to study where you don’t know anybody who’s going to distract you. Most importantly: there’s good food.
Yelp! recommendation in hand, I headed downtown with three friends on a Friday evening. If you’re worried about parking in Lansing, don’t be. There were plenty of metered spots near the restaurant, and meters in Lansing are free after 6 p.m. Thai Village looked slightly sketch from the outside, but I find that most good Thai places do. Also, have you ever noticed how all Thai restaurants have to have “Thai” in the name? I know of a Thai Inn, Thai Fortune, Thai 102, Thai Kitchen, there’s that new No Thai! Place in EL. C’mon, guys. Creativity.
We were one of only a few tables of people in there that night – not as good of a sign. Maybe they do a big takeout business? Anyways, the menu was pretty big, and we all decided on something different after a short dispute about who got to order the pad pak as I had forbidden anyone to order the same thing for the benefit of this story. By the way, I won.
I also ordered a Thai iced tea, which if you’ve never had one before, you should stop reading right now and go find some because they’re really, really good. It’s kind of like milk tea you would get at a bubble tea place but sweeter and with a stronger flavor. Basically, it’s a cold drink that consists of strong, dark tea, condensed milk and sugar, sometimes with some spices like anise mixed it. Thai Village’s Thai iced tea was definitely worthy of anything I ever had in D.C., which is to say it was great. Also, at $2, it was just about the same price as ordering a Coke and way, way better, and its creaminess is a great match for spicy Thai food.
Next up, miso soup, which came free with all of our entrees, a really nice plus. Normally, I don’t order miso soup because I’m not a fan. It’s kinda gross and watery and has that weird…miso-y flavor. I know, but still. But I had free soup in front of me, and I’m poor. There’s no way I was turning that away. And surprisingly, I really liked this variation. It was a thicker broth than I’ve seen before, and the flavor was more spicy than miso-y, and it was actually pretty hearty with tofu and mushrooms.
I had the pad pak for my entree, which consisted of broccoli, pea pods, mushrooms, carrots, baby corn, napa and bamboo shoots in a brown sauce. I added chicken, but if you can’t tell, I ordered it basically because it had the widest variety of vegetables and I’m usually too lazy to make anything but the occasional salad or side of broccoli for myself at home.
Sidebar: We had a serious debate about baby corn while deciding what to order. I mean, baby corn is weird, right? It looks like a tiny corncob, but you can eat the whole thing which is unnatural. It tastes good, but still, how the hell did they engineer that?
Anyway. It was really good. I ordered it hot, and it was definitely spicy but not over the top. The mix of vegetables was great and the sauce had great flavor. I’m trying to come up with another adjective to describe it other than great, but I can’t. Sorry. I’m obviously no Ruth Reichl. Basically, I’m telling you it was good so you should just go try it.
Everybody else was pretty happy with their meals as well. One of my friends had the drunken noodles (“I get it everywhere and I wasn’t disappointed,” she said. “The veggies were cooked perfectly but it could have used some more basil”), another had bell peppers and Thai holy basil with shrimp (“Could have used a lot more basil and some more shrimp, but otherwise good”) and the last had the sinn pak delight with tofu (“Delightful,” she said. Just kidding. “The tofu was cooked perfectly and the mushrooms were really good” was what she actually said).
So I guess maybe they’re really good chefs but have a basil shortage? On the plus side, the portions were huge, definitely big enough to take half home for another meal, which is basically the best part of any restaurant meal as any college student knows.
Prices weren’t bad either. Most of the entrees are between $8 and $9 for dinner and between $6 and $7 for lunch, and come with a choice of chicken, pork, tofu, beef, shrimp, scallop or squid.
My conclusions about this place:
– Food was great (I don’t own a thesaurus)
– They have a mysterious lack of basil
– I am now craving Thai iced tea
– I wish I still had the other half of my entrée left but I ate it at 3 a.m. the same night
– I should probably have more vegetables in my diet
So there you have it! You should eat probably eat here if you like Thai food.
Lemme know if you have any suggestions for more places I should check out.