Thursday, May 21, 2009
Restaurant Review - Fresh Mint in Scottsdale
This is the first in a series of restaurant reviews that I am going to be posting. I will keep working on a good format but I wanted to do this one while it was fresh in my head. With the sad news that Mandala Tea Room closed this week, I am going to seek out more vegan and vegetarian options in the Phoenix area and post what I find here.
13802 N Scottsdale Road, Suite 161
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
NW corner of Scottsdale and Thunderbird
Fresh Mint is tucked away in an unassuming strip mall. It is a family owned restaurant. The Executive Chef is Mai Ly. She is the wife of the husband and wife team that own the restaurant. Each time I have been in she has been working away in the kitchen preparing every dish fresh to order. On this visit their daughter was the one masterfully plating and presenting my dishes.
The restaurant is simply and cheerfully appointed in bright greens. It reminds me of the kind of place you'd find in a small island town. There is beach music and oldies piped in which adds to the relaxed atmosphere. This could be because the first Fresh Mint was opened on the island of Maui by the owners. They moved to the mainland and sold the original so that their daughter could attend college here. This location has been open since April of 2008. It was not very busy during my visit as it was between the lunch and dinner rushes.
I'm going to jump right in and tell you about my favorite part...the food. The food is extremely fresh island fare with an Asian twist. The menu has a nice selection of appetizers, salads, soups, noodle dishes, other entrees and desserts. All of the items but one are vegan. The chow mein noodles are not vegan, but you can substitute brown rice to make the dish vegan. They offer soft drinks, coffee, daily fresh brewed jasmine tea, and smoothies made to your specifications.
On this visit I started off with the Fresh Summer Rolls ($5.95). They are filled with fresh thin sliced carrot, celery, cabbage, tofu, fresh mint all rolled in rice paper. The rolls are served with a sweet and rich house peanut sauce. The rolls themselves are super fresh. They do not have any marinade or seasoning, so alone they don't offer a lot of flavor. They are quite tasty with the sauce. As you can see from the picture below, the presentation is beautiful.
For the entree I opted for the Kung Pao Soy Chicken ($13.95) on the owners suggestion. The "chicken" was frighteningly close in texture and flavor to the animal version (in a very good way). The sauce was spiced to perfection and again the freshness of the ingredients really stole the show. You have your choice of brown or white rice. I opted for the brown. The rice was excellent. It was plump, fluffy, and cooked to perfection. The plate was presented with a lovely salad of lettuce, cabbage, red bell peppers, carrots, and tomatoes in a light basil dressing.
For dessert I tried the banana fritter. I don't have a good description of the ingredients at this time. This was a very nicely presented dessert. The bananas were wrapped in rice paper and fried. They were served over a creamy tapioca concoction drizzled with chocolate. I loved the concept of this dessert. The texture was excellent, but the flavor, while ok, left me wanting a bit more. On the flip side, because it was lighter in texture, I didn't have that overly stuffed feeling after eating a substantial amount of food.
Both times I have been in here the owners have both been working. Mrs in the kitchen and Mr in the dining room. Today I had the honor of meeting their daughter who was also working in the kitchen. She did a lovely job plating each course as you can see. We had a little conversation about the menu. She mentioned that she couldn't eat the "beef" dishes because they reminded her too much of the real thing. This makes me want to come back and give more attention to the beef dishes as many of my friends are carnivores who poo poo a lot of my veg talk. With the quality and freshness of Fresh Mint's food, I'm pretty sure they would be convinced that vegan food is pretty awesome.
The service has the laid back island feel as well. They are super nice people, but the fine points of service are absent. During my three courses, my water glass was never re-filled. It is not all that attentive, but when you do see your servers, they are very pleasant. That said, if you are looking to be pampered and waited on hand and foot, this might not be where you want to dine. If you are looking for outstanding fresh food and a bright friendly atmosphere, this is it!
Appetizers are $5.95
Salads are $7.95 - $8.95
Soups come in two sizes; Small $5.95 and Large $7.95
Entrees range from $9.95 - $13.95
If you have eaten here please post a comment and/or pictures of your experience.
NEXT STOP: POSH IN SCOTTSDALE