Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Spotlight on Tâm Deli Delights

the cast of Spotlight....

So a month ago or so, R and I went to see the film Spotlight. It was a plus for me, since not only was the film exceptionally good, and I spent some quality time with R, but the film also has Rachel McAdams starring in it, and I have a severe, puppy dog crush on Rachel McAdams. Before you criticize me for that, remember that R had her own movie eyecandy to appreciate: Mark Rufalo, Michael Keeton, Liev Schreiber, and a dozen more, so it all worked out for the best. Aside from the effects on me from Rachel’s presence, the film is very highly recommended.

Sticky rice with Chicken and Sausage

We passed on the usual garbage can full of stale popcorn from the snackbar, and opted instead for a post-film, early dinner, while we listened to our stomachs growl through the film. We wanted to wait until Ray opened at 5pm at Three Little Pigs, and had planned on having a few drinks at The Aristocrat before he started serving, but the bar didn’t unlock until 5pm either, and it was cold and too windy to hang for over an hour on the patio outback. It wasn’t a total loss, since we got to chat with Raymie for a bit, and I hadn’t seen him for a while. Let me just interject here that if you haven’t eaten at Three Little Pigs yet, you’re an Austin dining dumbass. So, after a Raymie visit, off to Tâm Deli we went.

Shrimp springroll with peanut sauce

Tâm Bui and I worked together at the UT Coop back in the early ‘70s. She and her sister Tran Ngoc own Tâm Deli (and Bakery), and quite often you’ll see Tran’s hubby, Nick, waiting on tables also. It’s a tight knit operation that’s been successful for decades, and it’s a big favorite of ours. On that exposed strip of North Lamar, the north wind was howling and cut right through you, so some hot soup was in order. But first we started with an appetizer of Sticky Rice with Roasted Chicken and Chinese Sausage, and we ended up fighting over every tiny little morsel.

Vietnamese salad with shrimp and pork

Next to arrive was the Vietnamese Salad with Shrimp and Pork. It is surrounded by a raft of airy shrimp crackers, and underneath is a delicious salad of just-poached shrimp and roast pork, with lettuce, cucumber, and julienned carrots, bathed in a rich nuoc cham dressing. That was competing with a pair of plump, overstuffed shrimp spring rolls, with a delicious peanut dipping sauce.

Rice paper dumplings with minced pork and cloud ear mushrooms, fried garlic on top

The next course was a big favorite of mine, rice paper dumplings stuffed with minced pork and cloud ear fungus, each one topped with a slice of pork roll pate. We literally grunted and groaned our way through the dish, appreciating every single nibble of the dish. It sounded like Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm scene at Katz’s Deli in When Harry Met Sally. As good as those rice paper rolls were, the Grilled Lemongrass Beef Salad was even better. Each bite was loaded with big flavor. That is one hell of a good salad.

Grilled lemongrass beef salad

R got a cup of meatball soup, with unctuous beef meatballs swimming in a rich, aromatic chicken broth. I opted for a big bowl of the My Tho Rice Noodle Soup, loaded with shrimp, roasted pork, imitation, crab, and squid, sharing a lake of rich chicken broth with a nest of rice noodles. Steaming hot soup on a windy, coldass, winter day! Can’t beat it.  I had also foolishly ordered a grilled lemongrass bahn mi sandwich, and thankfully, it never made it onto the order ticket. Thankful, because I don’t think I would have been able to hold it, but regrettable because Tâm Deli makes the best bahn mi sandwiches in Austin.

Meatball soup

My Tho rice noodle soup

We did have just enough room for a pair of the exquisite cream puffs, and an order of sticky rice-wrapped banana with coconut sauce. Those disappeared as if we weren’t already stuffed to our gills, and then, a bit later, when I was paying out, I was further tempted by a box of their assorted cookies to-go. Hands-down, the absolute best almond cookie I have ever put in my mouth. So, to sum it up, a fantastic film that deserves every critic’s nod it has gotten (and with Rachel McAdams too!....see pic below), quality time spent with R, a chummy chit chat with old pal Raymie (and you should eat at Three Little Pigs, often....see weblink below), a stunningly delicious meal at Tâm Deli to top it all off, and some superb almond cookies to go with a shot of Angel’s Envy Bourbon later on. A very satisfying Sunday.

Banana left, coconut sauce middle, cream puffs right

Mick Vann ©          


a parting shot of Rachel McAdams.......


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