I know you think you’re pretty solid with a pair of chopsticks.
When you have the option at an Asian restaurant, you scoff at the offered fork, thinking it’s beneath your skill set. You’ve built your confidence over dozens of plates of chicken lo mein. You think you’re ready.
But when it comes time to eat pho with a pair of chopsticks, you’d better order humble pie for dessert. Using two smooth, tapered sticks to wrangle slippery rice noodles that are swimming around in a delicious clear broth just might result in a hand cramp. (I wouldn’t know, clearly. I’m saying this might happen to you.)
My point (and I do have one) is that I have great news! There’s a new Rochester restaurant where you can practice/show off your pho-chopstick skills.
Papaya Bay opened last week at 2711 Commerce Drive NW, in the former Nile Restaurant location near Costco and Crooked Pint. The Vietnamese cuisine eatery is the second concept for owner Shai Mauth, who owns and operates Wabi Sabi Express in the First Avenue Food Court downtown.
But while Wabi Sabi is a sushi bar with some pho and other Vietnamese elements thrown in, Papaya Bay is strictly Vietnamese cuisine.
The menu features banh mi sandwiches, including barbecue pork, grilled pork, black pepper chicken and panko fried fish flavors. Turn your chopstick game up with the pho noodle soups, including various protein options such as steak, meatballs, chicken, brisket and more.
They also feature vermicelli noodles with various accompaniments; I can’t wait to try the stir fry basil tofu variation. Don’t forget your Vietnamese iced coffee and rice bean pudding for dessert.
Papaya Bay is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Mauth plans to expand the menu in the coming months as well, so stay tuned.
The other new ethnic restaurant isn’t entirely new, but it’s new to me after it changed locations — so maybe it will be for you, too. And newsflash: It’s another source for shawarma (though a little different preparation than my recent fave Aboba’s).
Lazeez Restaurant and Catering opened in mid-September in the old Tortilleria Jalisco restaurant building at 303 Elton Hills Drive NW — but it originally opened in the food court at Apache Mall.
The new location has its own parking and dining room, and food is made to order.
Lazeez still features the Middle Eastern Halal cuisine, which includes delicacies like baba ganoush, lentil soup, and various types and preparations of shawarma.
Check out their sandwiches for a smaller meal — I recommend the beef or chicken shawarma, or falafel.
You can order the same in a platter for heartier appetites; platters are also available with shrimp, lamb, whole chicken, tilapia, or scallops. Platters can be prepared with Middle Eastern flat bread or with rice.
Pair these with a beef, veggie, or cheese sambusa on the side, along with baklava for dessert, and it’s a regular feast.
Lazeez is a family business owned by Abdulrahman Tageldin, and they’re open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.
Pie shop farewell
You guys, the Whalan pie shop is closing. Not just for the season. I’m gonna need a minute.
Heather Carlson reported in Monday’s paper that Aroma Pie Shop is closing in just a couple of weeks. Owner Maggie Gergen has the shop up for sale and is hoping someone else can keep making bikers along the trail as happy and full as she has.
I had to include it here just to put a plea out: Someone please, please buy it and keep making pies.
Here’s what you need to do: Rent the movie “Waitress” (2007) starring Keri Russell, go eat one last slice of Gergen’s pie, and then make her an offer. I’ll see you there next summer.