Tag: Mai Lee

This Is Our Favorite Dish In St. Louis

We love Mai Lee. It’s no secret. I try to remember to tell Mai Lee I love her about once a month.

Every dish we’ve tried tastes really, really good. Raw vegetables look and taste pristine and vegetables are cooked perfectly tender-crisp. The pho’s flavorful; Jake prefers #9 with the shaved beef, but I prefer #1, Hu Tieu, a lighter soup filled with crab sticks, shrimp, and barbecued pork. To each his or her own. If you can’t find something you like here, we can’t be friends.

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The St. Paul Sandwich

We’re working our way through our St. Louis-specific food traditions list. This week, I took a poll to decide my next lunch. Imo’s St. Louis-style pizza in all of its Provel glory or a St. Paul Sandwich?

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The St. Paul Sandwich won.

This combination of white bread, an Egg Foo Young patty, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo supposedly originated with a man named Steven Yuen who named it after his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. Ironically, this isn’t popular in St. Paul, Minnesota like it is here in St. Louis, despite its name. Jennifer Lee’s Fortune Cookie Chronicles blog post goes on to explain how the St. Paul Sandwich is typically an inexpensive treat available at many local Chinese American restaurants.

Egg Foo Young isn’t one of my favorite dishes, but every once in a while I’ll get a craving. Jake has very few food aversions, but Egg Foo Young is at the top of his short list.

I headed to one of our favorite restaurants Mai Lee for my first one. There’s nothing we haven’t enjoyed here so I guessed it would be a safe bet. At Mai Lee, St. Paul Sandwiches cost around $5-7. Before choosing Mai Lee, I did a little bit of internet research and many people said theirs was a particularly delicious version. I chose the shrimp St. Paul Sandwich.

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While filming a short video, I took my first bite and enjoyed the variety of flavors and textures. The soft white bread contrasted with the crispy egg patty, and tangy mayo, pickles, and onion balanced the fried richness. I really liked the pieces of plump, springy shrimp. All of a sudden the sandwich was nearly gone and I realized I had forgotten to take more photos. Jake couldn’t get into the sandwich, which was just as well. I snatched it back from him and ate the rest.

One local reader suggested that I order extra pickles. I like this idea and so next time I will.

Do you have any thoughts on St. Paul Sandwiches? Who makes your favorite version?

Mai Lee: Why We Can’t Stop Talking About The House Special Soup

We live near Mai Lee and keep coming back. Even if we didn’t live as close, we’d still return.

I turned 31 in Ohio so Jake and I celebrated an early birthday dinner at Mai Lee. The atmosphere is elegant and the service is polished and graceful in a manner that reminds us of dining at Meritage (one of our favorite Twin Cities restaurants).

The soup here is really fantastic.

Of course, there’s pho. Our typical order at Vietnamese restaurants is the pho to which the restaurant adds thin slices of raw beef that instantly cooks in the hot broth. The pho broth here is spicy. Not “hot,” but strongly spiced and aromatic. Jake loved it. I found myself gravitating thoward the Hu Tieu My Tho, a clear soup loaded with BBQ pork slices, crab sticks and shrimp. At some restaurants I’ve found the BBQ pork in my soup to be dry. Here, the slices were thick and succulent.

What really captivated us was the House Special Soup Mai Lee includes in their Vietnamese Dinner for Two ($35.95). All night, we couldn’t stop talking about this soup.

House Soup

The broth had a savory, rich, shrimp flavor; not a “seafoody” flavor, but like someone had taken the time to build a broth with shrimp shells and care. It was also packed to the gills with slices of chicken, tender-crisp vegetables, shrimp, and fried shallots. And how could we forget the baby corn! Usually we hate the jaundiced, tinny little ears we find in Chinese take-out. But this baby corn actually tasted like corn and we wanted to eat it.

The rest of the meal was delicious, too. In addition to the spring rolls and house special soup, the meal came with ginger chicken, beef stir-fry coated in the lightest lemon sauce, and Vietnamese style fried rice. We were especially impressed with the freshness and quantity of the vegetables.

Mai Lee Birthday Meal

The rest of Mai Lee’s menu is huge and includes more adventurous choices such as caramelized fish and roasted quail, plus an entire Chinese menu. I was thrilled to see banh xeo listed in the appetizers. This is a dish I haven’t encountered since I visited a friend in Seattle. These crispy rice flour pancakes filled with shrimp, pork and greens are at the top of my to-order list.

On other visits, we tried a few varieties of banh mi sandwiches. The meatballs in the banh mi, below, are served warm in a tangy tomato sauce. We ate the chicken salad banh mi before I could take a photo. The creamy chicken salad has a special flavor that makes it taste different than any other I’ve tried. It’s my favorite.

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We love that nothing here seems to be an afterthought.

Mai Lee Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant
8396 Music Memorial Drive, Brentwood, MO
314-645-2835
*Free parking in the garage next door. 

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