Friday, May 13, 2011

Guest Blog: Green Papaya

For today's guest blog, we have one of my dearest friends and fellow foodies, Jenna, writing about a recent dining experience we had at Green Papaya. Jenna also has her own blog, The Over-Analyst, which is great - you should check it out!! Thanks, Jenna!

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Hello to all my foodies out there! We've always been taught to "eat to live" but I think we can agree to disagree with this statement. I'm proud to say I "live to eat"! I can hear my father now, "Jenna, what's the point of getting excited about food - you chew it up, swallow it and digest it." Ohhhhh man, does he not get it. It's the memories and new foods I discover in each dining experience that excites me! You know you're a foodie when you just finish your lunch and your wheels start turning thinking about where you're going to have dinner. So now that you know I'm a legit foodie, I will be filling in for the experts today as a guest blogger from NYC. I've lived in NYC for 5 years now and I can confidently say that we have the best food in the country...hands down. You probably hate me for making that comment but you can't, I'm from Ohio! And I'm a hard critic so here it goes...

Today's grub review is on the restaurant, Green Papaya in Oakley. The cuisine is a combination of Thai and sushi bar. When I was on my way to the restaurant, I was certain there would be a green theme going on. Whenever a color is part of a restaurant's name, 9 times out of 10, the restaurant is decked out in that color. So when I arrived at my destination, lo and behold appeared a bright green hole-in-the-wall. When I walked in, my girlfriends were sitting at the table in front of the sushi bar (I was late like usual). Like I mentioned, I just love getting together with friends and talking about anything that comes to mind. We had one of our best friend's wedding the night before so there was much to talk about. When I finally came up for air, I realized I was completely oblivious to my surroundings. When I started looking around, the green theme was in full effect which is common for a Thai or Japanese restaurant. Green plants were scattered throughout the restaurant which made the space very naturesque. I know I said I'm a hard critic but not with atmosphere. One thing I have learned while living in NYC is that usually the restaurants that don't necessarily appeal to the eye have the most amazing food. I tend to stay away from modern, empty spaces. 3 words....small-portions....expensive. So I was absolutely loving the quaint, ethnic feel to the restaurant. No complaints there!



I started with a glass of Malbec. This is typically one of my favorite wines because I tend to like fuller bodied wines. When she handed me the glass, it was more transparent than usual and I knew it was going to taste watered down. I'm somewhat big on wine and I had to bite my tongue after I tasted it. I felt like I was drinking grape juice. This has happened to me before and I had no shame in returning it. I thought nothing of it but when I looked at my friends I was with, they started busting out laughing. So after remembering that
experience, I decided to throw back the grape juice.

When I opened the menu, I am picky yet again! Since I am a vegetarian (that eats fish) I have to have the right amount of options. If the menu appears like a "diner menu", I get overwhelmed and become extremely indecisive. In these cases, I usually give the waiter 3 options and he selects my meal. When there is not enough of a selection, I still don't know. In these cases, I usually end up combining 2 plates and creating my own meal. And yes, I am completely aware that I have issues. Green Papaya's menu was closer to the "diner menu" so to save time, when our waiter was taking our order, she was going around in a circle. But about half way through, she looked at me, skipped me and carried on. I honestly thought she was punishing me for being late. Accidentally, I said, "seriously?" I don't think she heard me but I felt somewhat ridiculous so I let it go. When I ordered, I took my gf's advice and went with the green papaya roll. If it's their house specialty roll, it's gotta be good! I wasn't too hungry so I just ordered a salad to start with. The table started with edamame and we were very pleased! You would be surprised how some restaurants actually carry mediocre edamame. I could still taste warm grape juice, so I ordered a Sapporo (Japanese beer). Sapporo never lets me down. When the salads came out, mine looked nothing like the salads my friends ordered. Then I remembered the waiter asked me how spicy I wanted it...I just said 10? I have a really high tolerance for spicy foods. When I started eating it, it wasn't so bad. Then a couple bites in, I realized this ridiculous salad was too spicy to handle. I started chugging water and was pretty much silent for 20 minutes. I think I even patted my forehead off a little. Because I absolutely hate wasting food, I tried my very hardest to eat it all. I now know "spicy" at Green Papaya actually means "flaming". And I also now know to actually read the menu before ordering!



In between courses, we started telling stories and laughing at each other. We never have been a quiet bunch so yeah, the volume started to raise but it was nothing dramatic. I just have to preface that my #1 pet peeve when dining at a restaurant is when another table secretly starts listening to your conversation. If it's an awkward date, I feel bad and let it be even though it's slightly awkward. So that night, there was a table of 8 sitting next to us and they all literally stopped talking and listened to our conversation for a good few minutes. We thought it was hysterical and had a few good laughs. After all, I can't blame them for wanting to join our table. We are always a lot of fun  :)

It was turning out to be quite an eventful night and I couldn't wait to get my green papaya roll! I was sure something outrageous was bound to happen - maybe the sushi would start moving? Shortly, our waiter came out with the next dish. I was highly impressed with the presentation. It drew my attention to the guys behind the sushi cart and they were conjuring up all sorts of interesting presentations. I do have to admit, the sushi places that I go to in NY only display sushi rolls in lame rows....boring. Point for Ohio. The roll consisted of about 12 pieces. What I loved most about the roll was the manageable size of each individual piece. The Green Papaya Roll is considered a specialty roll and those are usually the insanely large pieces. If you're on a date, everyone knows not to order a specialty roll because if the guy watches you eat that thing, you're done for. My next favorite part about the roll was that it was wrapped with green soy bean instead of seaweed. I’ve always liked seaweed but the green soy bean put it to shame. The green soy bean wasn't as chewy as seaweed usually is, which made it easier to eat. Most seaweed is salted but I don’t believe the green soy bean contained any salt. Although I’m a fan of salt, the green soy bean is the healthier choice. And anyways, I got my salt fix by drenching it in soy sauce - low sodium though! Inside the roll contained shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, mango, and cream cheese. The roll was topped with spicy mayo, crab stick and tempura flakes. It was the perfect combination and the best roll I've had in years. This is BIG. New York is well-known for their sushi. And another point for Ohio. I wasn't going to go here but I must add that this roll isn't necessarily healthy. A typical shrimp tempura roll has about 500 calories and spicy tuna rolls have about 300 calories. Not going to ruin my amazing experience by counting calories so I'll stop here. But if you're wanting to focus on eating healthier, this may not be the roll for you. As long as you stay away from tempura, I think that's good enough!



Overall, Green Papaya was more than what I expected. Don't tell my fellow New Yorkers, but I think I enjoyed the sushi more than the majority of the sushi restaurants that I regularly go to in NY. That was hard to admit. I feel like I'm cheating on my boyfriend! I can have 2 right? Totally.

So to wrap it up...don't show up late or the waiters take your order last; do not order a glass of the Malbec & ask for a better wine; if you're feeling spontaneous and want to order the FLAMING Green Papaya Salad, I recommend sticking with the 1-5 levels; DO order the Green Papaya roll when you feel like you can indulge a little (try ordering w/out the shrimp tempura for a healthier option); go with a good group, they have a fun atmosphere and I'm sure they would be okay with a few sake bombs; and if people start listening in on your conversation, look at them and offer them a piece of your sushi (hehe). HUGE fan of this place and definitely plan on going back when I return to my old stompin' grounds!

Food: 4
Service: 2.5 (only because me & the waiter had issues)
Overall Experience: 4.5

It was my amazing girlfriends that made my overall experience so incredible. Remember, eating good food makes the experience 10x better when you have great company! Thanks Kris, Mags, Pep, & Alaine! xx

And thank you to Kate & Kris for inviting me to guest blog! Your blog is just wonderful!

All my best,

Jenna

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