He Said/She Said: Spring rolls inKathy: At last, it’s springtime.
Russ: Yeah, we wouldn’t have tackled spring rolls in, say, October.
K: That’s because no one makes anything called “autumn rolls.”
R: It’s tough enough to reach a consensus on what spring rolls are without involving the other three seasons.
K: Well, for the sake of this story, they’re wrapped in rice paper and served cold.
R: And you made this judgment call?
K: I picked the dish, so I get to set the parameters. Care to argue?
R: That’s what the story’s for – so let’s spring into action.
Kathy’s spring roll profile: A light snack bursting with crisp, fresh flavors – and a tangy sauce to dip it in.
Russ’ spring roll profile: It’s the combination of flavors that make a spring roll worth eating. Gotta keep that balance.
Monsoon Vietnamese Bistro
14248 Manchester Road, Manchester 636.256.8838
Tue. to Thu. – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat. – noon to 10 p.m.
R: Your parameters were already in jeopardy as soon as we opened the menu. Because here they’re not called spring rolls, but salad rolls.
K: Yes, but gði cuõn by any other name would still be a spring roll to me.
R: Well, “salad roll” was well-deserved; there was a lot of lettuce stuffed in the shrimp salad rolls. It nearly overwhelmed the other flavors, particularly the too-mild shrimp.
K: But the Monsoon salad rolls with strips of char-grilled beef were excellent. And the chile-lime sauce for dipping was a great complement.
R: Proof positive that you can have meaty goodness and still call it “light.”
K: These were big rolls, too.
R: And yet we ate four of them. And lunch.
K: Good thing they were light, huh?
3737 Gravois Ave., St. Louis • 314.776.1299
Thu. to Tue. – 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
R: Saturday afternoon may not be the busiest time here, but there were still plenty of St. Louis’ Vietnamese slurping noodles from big bowls of pho. Native cred: Truc Lam has it.
K: They also have a flair for presentation; our rolls were impaled on stalks of green onion. And while the slices of pork weren’t super tender, the peanut sauce was a good balance of sweet and salty. The spring rolls were just the right size to gobble up, too.
R: My only complaint was the lettuce. There was just too much of it; it was literally bursting out of my roll.
Banh Mi So No. 1
4071 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
Tue. to Sun. – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
K: You can’t miss the claim: “Best spring rolls in St. Louis.” It’s right there in the front window in red and green neon.
R: As far as I’m concerned, you can’t dispute it, either.
K: The combination rolls were actually pretty to look at: pink pork, orange shrimp, green mint and lettuce.
R: I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at mine after the first bite. In fact, in three more bites, it was gone.
K: They were a bit small, but there’s always that third one on the plate if you need more.
R: There was just enough of everything stuffed in there. A little mint in every bite, a little shrimp. Someone in Banh Mi So’s kitchen has discovered the perfect ratio of this to that.
K: The fish sauce was a surprise; I expected peanut sauce. But the sour and spicy worked great with the sweet and mild.
R: Like I said – that elusive balance.
O.R. Juice and Smoothies
6654 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights 314.647.8881
Mon. to Sat. – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Kitchen − until 8 p.m.)
R: While I waited for our order, I looked around: A sign gives an injunction to not use cell phones, so as not to introduce negative energy; elsewhere, an assurance that soups are stirred clockwise to boost positive energy.
K: Doesn’t everyone stir clockwise?
R: Still, there was some disharmony with these rolls.
K: For once I’m with you: The first few bites were mostly lettuce.
R: Worse than that, a fast dissection of my roll revealed that the shrimp were all half shrimp; they’d been sliced lengthwise and placed facing out, so you couldn’t tell you weren’t getting a whole one.
K: They did do the “impaled green onion” trick, though.
R: It seemed too thin for a green onion, Kath – I think it was just a chive.
K: But the peanut sauce was probably the best so far, sticky and just sweet enough.
R: I’ll try to remember that for when we’re assigned He Said/She Said: Peanut sauce.