GORGE YOURSELF AT GREEN PAPAYA
Go hungry to this Northside Asian restaurant, but skip dessert
13141 City Station Drive, Ste. 149,
It’s not smart to arrive at a restaurant ravenous, but sometimes it happens. This was the case for me recently at the River City Marketplace location of Green Papaya, which resulted in my ordering food like a crazy woman.
First, the Green Papaya sampler ($12) to satisfy my every desire — crunchy, sweet, savory and spicy. An attractive arrangement (kudos to the plastic light-up rose) of coconut shrimp, crab Rangoon, chicken satay skewers, spring rolls and fried Thai-style egg rolls, plus a thin Thai garlic sauce and thicker peanut sauce. The coconut-y fried pieces of butterflied shrimp were my favorite, followed by the chicken satay and fried crunchy crab Rangoon clusters. So far, so good.
Then came a trio of entrées, because it all sounded superb: green curry with chicken ($14) and jasmine rice, Green Papaya pan-fried noodles with chicken, shrimp and crab meat ($14), and basil fried rice with shrimp ($13).
As I spooned some curry atop my rice, it imparted a magnificently fragrant glow. Spicy (maybe I’ll downgrade to a spice level two on my next visit) with a hint of sweetness, it was loaded with pieces of bell peppers, raw mushrooms, broccoli, snow peas and onions, and bursting with flavor.
Descending from my green curry high, I sunk my chopsticks into the basil fried rice. Another hit: It was so full of basil, scrambled egg pieces, carrots, basil, glass noodles, crunchy cashews, tender shrimp, diced scallions and mushrooms that I eagerly set aside half for the next day’s lunch.
Last but not least — pan-fried noodles. The plating was a work of art, so my first reaction was joy. Taste-wise, though, it left something to be desired — the chicken was chewy and a stark white color, and the faux crabmeat was in huge chunks. The brown sauce engulfing it was pleasant, but the rest of it couldn’t be saved.
With boxes of leftovers, I pushed my limits and ordered dessert. Our waitress advised against my selection of red bean mochi ice cream (I did appreciate her honesty), so the fried cheesecake ($5) and green tea ice cream ($4) were consolation picks. Then something strange occurred. The ice cream arrived draped with what appeared to be Hershey’s chocolate syrup and topped with mint sprigs. The only thing green tea about it was the fact that it was green. And the cheesecake itself was decent, but it was doused with too many sweet drizzles of caramel, raspberry and Key lime syrups.
Overall, this Northside establishment offers a great ambience, experience and value. But do yourself a favor and forego dessert.