Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spectacular Salad's Worth the Work at International Market

Posted by on Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 12:16 AM

Bowls of ingredients jostle for space at the International Market, where you construct your own salad bites. And this is only half the table. See more after the jump.
  • Bowls of ingredients jostle for space at the International Market, where you construct your own salad bites. And this is only half the table. See more after the jump.
It's no secret that my restaurant orders never include easy-to-make foods like pasta dishes and sauteed chicken, which I feel are often better at home.

What I'm buying from a restaurant is an experience I can't, or won't, have at home, whether out of sheer inertia, lack of time, or economies of scale. I don't want fancy ingredients — those are easy enough to buy. What I want is expertise and patience. Perfect example: the amazing "house salad" at International Market.

Lauded by Carrington in a review last autumn, this salad was previously on the menu at International House, the mid-1990s Myint-owned restaurant where PM is now. Then, it was a more modest array of ingredients — maybe 12 — in a multi-compartment tray like a big bento box. Pile your choice of ingredients into a lettuce leaf and crunch away for an intense flavor experience that must be experienced to be believed.

Now it's grown to an array of 30 bowls containing labor-intensive items like shredded spiced chicken, limes cut into teensy bits, supremes of grapefruit and fried peanuts, slivered lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf, which must be sliced superfine because it's too leathery to chew.

And ... more ingredients on the other side of the table. Delicious fried peanuts are on the lower right.
  • And ... more ingredients on the other side of the table. Delicious fried peanuts are on the lower right.
Patti told us that she and her two helpers spent a couple of hours prepping the salad ingredients, for a total of perhaps six hours' work for enough ingredients to serve salad to five or six people. (That's why she asks that you call the restaurant at 297-4453 to order the house salad a day or two in advance.)

The price tag, $30 per person, is a little sticker-shocky, but this salad is one dish where you can actually see and taste what you're paying for, and that's a bill I'm willing to foot.

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