As a midrange, “order at the counter” style eatery, Mei Wei blends higher end dining (a wine and beer selection) with no frills service (a serve yourself beverage and condiment bar). However, they consistently go beyond the expected. The condiments included items like ginger and marjoram while the self serve area was stocked with hand sanitizer and to-go boxes, facilitating a quick meal.
The menu offered a wide range of Asian cuisine–Cantonese, Thai, Mongolian–in which you selected a protein and the dish was made to order. I settled on the beef Thai cashew with white rice while the hubby opted for beef pad Thai. We couldn’t resist adding an order of the Chinese powdered donuts from the daily special menu so we added those along with two sodas. While our food cooked, we filled our fountain drinks and chatted away. The dinner crowd was steady but light though I expect their proximity to Research Park means lunch is a bit nutty.
Our food came up quickly and arrived piping hot and beautifully plated. I inquired after our donuts and was impressed when our server stated that they usually don’t start them until later. This caught my attention for two reasons. First, this means that the cooks have to actually pay attention to where you are in your meal, a rarity at most “order at the counter” operations. Secondly, it showed an understanding of the dish. Chinese donuts (like their American kin) just aren’t as good if you let them sit and come to room temperature.
That same kind of attention to detail was evident in the organization of the dishes themselves. The hubby’s pad thai was served with a wedge of lime tucked in among the ground peanuts and bean sprouts which were served on the side.
For my part, I was won over by the incredibly fresh vegetables in my Thai cashew dish (shown at the top of the post). Green bell peppers and broccoli are two of several “tell-tale” vegetables which I look at to indicate the overall freshness of a restaurant’s produce. Truly fresh peppers and broccoli are crisp with a depth of flavor I don’t usually find in commercial cooking. Both were present in my dish and both were excellent. Wherever Mei Wei is getting their produce from, they are doing an excellent job.
Not that the veggies were all there was to love; far from it. The beef was thinly sliced, tender, and slightly sweet. Whole toasted cashews provided flavor, crunch, and curb appeal. The carrots and snowpeas lived up to the standards set by the peppers and broccoli. The white rice was light, just a touch sticky but not overly starchy, and complimented the sauce beautifully. The garlic soy sauce was light and flavorful. Instead of masking the flavors of the constituent parts, it highlighted them.
The donuts were fried bits of perfection. Soft dough fried to give the outside a bit of crunch and then sprinkled with powdered sugar for a touch of sweetness. Despite being listed as a set of 4 on the menu, we were served a plate of 10.
We will absolutely be back.
Total for the meal: $23.36 (includes two entrees, two soft drinks, and an order of donuts)
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