Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mỹ Linh Birthday Dinner

Birthdays for me are a serious business. I’ve been known to start celebrating my birthday a couple weeks in advance and continue the festivities days afterward. That’s just how I roll. You may have seen my other posts on the wine and cheese party and birthday brunch, but there’s still more to come. For my family birthday celebration, we headed out to Mỹ Linh in Albany, New York, for what has become the traditional spot for my birthday dinner with my parents. My younger sister, Tara, was able to join us this year as well.

You know you’re in a good place when the manager hugs you when you walk in the door. I’ve been going to Mỹ Linh since I was a kid, and it’s definitely a place where I feel comfortable and welcome.

We started off the meal with Mỹ Linh martinis and some appetizers. The martinis consist of Bombay Sapphire gin and salted lime juice with garnishes of salted lime rind and lemongrass. It’s one of my favorite cocktails, and I’ve only seen it at Mỹ Linh. These drinks have a very distinctive, clean taste that enhances the flavors of the cuisine without being overpowering.

For appetizers we ordered Chã Giò, Bò Tai Chánh, and Sướn Ram. Chã Giò are lightly fried rolls filled with minced pork, shrimp, and vegetables. They are served with lettuce, mint, and cucumber. Traditionally you take the rolls and wrap them up in the lettuce, mint, and cucumber before dipping them into nuoc mam sauce. I love eating this style of fried rolls because the vegetables add a nice, fresh element to the dish. You get the crispy satisfying aspect of the fried roll juxtaposed with the cleanness of the vegetables—a perfectly balanced appetizer.

Bò Tai Chánh is a Vietnamese style beef carpaccio with lime juice that is topped with red onions, basil, and chopped peanuts. I only had beef carpaccio once before (at ALTA in New York City), and I was interested in trying a different style. The Vietnamese version was super limey, which I really liked, and the toppings added some interesting flavors as well.

The Sướn Ram are another one of my favorite Mỹ Linh appetizers. It consists of small bite size bits of pork rib simmered in a sweet, caramelized nuoc mam sauce and is finished with scallions. Do I even need to say more? I love pork, I love ribs, I love nuoc mam, and I love scallions. They are pretty amazing.

For entrees I opted for my absolute favorite Mỹ Linh dish—Vịt Rút Xương. This dish is half of a boneless duck marinated with lemongrass, garlic, and wine. The duck is pan fried until crispy and served with spicy nuoc mam, perfumed rice, and broccoli. Although I’ve tried many other Mỹ Linh entrees, I just always come back to the duck! It’s an amazing balance of flavors and the crispiness is simply heavenly. A lot of people find duck too fatty, but I think it’s fantastic, and since I don’t have it very often it’s hard to resist it at Mỹ Linh since they always cook it up perfectly. 

Vịt Rút Xương

My mom ordered the Cá Nứớng, which is grilled salmon, topped with ginger nuoc mam and served with perfumed rice and vegetables. Tara and my dad ordered the Bánh Tầm Ðồ Biển, which consists of shrimp and scallops cooked in a light coconut milk blended with nuoc mam sauce and served over large vermicelli. I took a couple of bites and can say that both these dishes were great…but the Vịt Rút Xương is still my favorite.

Cá Nứớng
Bánh Tầm Ðồ Biển

All in all it was a fantastic dinner shared in the company of wonderful people. And my birthday celebrations still weren’t over…

*special thanks to my mom for taking photos on her Iphone for me since the batteries died in my camera!

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