Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cadao Express – Richfield, MN

M.Giant and I like to try new places and he left it up to me to find us one for our lunch date. I found one that was really to close to other places we’ve dined, but we hadn’t actually noticed it before. Cadao Express is in a strip mall near the corner of Penn and 66th, just south of the CrossTown Highway, so you’ve also probably driven past it without noticing it. I’m glad it popped up in a search I did while looking for fun new restaurants.

The place is small. Really small. There are two 4-top tables, a 2-top, and one metal 2-top outside on the sidewalk. That’s all the room there is. Fortunately, this place wasn’t busy and we were able to get a table. The inside is sparsely decorated, but still feels cozy. There’s a rack with magazines, newspapers, and books on it to read while you’re waiting for your food. There are cases of soda against the wall to restock the soda fridge that is also there. There is a television set showing VHN-TV (Vietnamese television) with a stack or Asian DVDs and a DVD player next to it. There are also a couple of TV trays being used to hold condiments or newspapers within easy reach.
The menu is more comprehensive than I expected. I saw the lit menu board above the cash register and assumed that was all they had. Then, I saw the menu on the table and realized there are a ton more things to get. It’s Chinese and Vietnamese food, so you’ll see some standards from both ethnicities on there.
Here's the actual menu, so you'll know I'm serious.
I was really in the mood for Pho, and it didn’t take much prodding for me to get that. I read decent reviews about it, so I got a bowl with sliced beef and meatballs in it. I also ordered some fresh spring rolls. The woman behind the counter doubles as the waitress to take your order, then goes back to cook the food (there’s one more cook in the back) and then brings it out for you. She’s pretty amazing.

The spring rolls came out and I was a little shocked at how huge they were. Someone with an online review called them fresh spring roll burritos and now I know why. They are, without a doubt, the largest spring rolls I’ve ever seen. AND, there are two of them. I think next time, I might just get an order of those and skip the entrée. And the best part was they were delicious. Very fresh ingredients inside and more slices of pork than I’ve ever seen in a spring roll. Plenty of shrimp and cilantro in there, as well. This was an excellent start to this meal.

M. Giant got a fried egg roll with his meal and it was equally thick. A little bit shorter than the fresh spring rolls, but it is pretty clear the people in back only know how to roll appetizers to the width of a forearm. I truly have seen burritos that would have girth envy from these things.

The Pho came out next – standard presentation: plate of ingredients for you to add yourself, and then a gallon-sized bowl of soup with noodles, meat, and broth. M.Giant suggested that Pho actually translates to “gallon” since I’ve never actually seen a small bowl of Pho before. I added the bits I needed to (after I pulled the onions out): hoisin, sri racha, bamboo shoots, thai basil, cilantro, jalapenos, squeeze of lime. Gave it a good stir and started eating. It was really good Pho. Not the best I’ve ever had, but I’d definitely get it again. The broth had a good flavor, although it seemed a tad bit thin. I will add more hoisin next time and hope to thicken it up. But like I said, the flavor was there, so no complaints. The meat wasn’t stringy, but the meatballs were a little tough – common at a lot of Asian places with pre-formed meatballs. Just go with the fresh sliced beef – my advice. It was nice and tender.

Somehow I managed to make it through the entire meal without slopping it on myself. Something Pho is notorious for (or maybe just me). I got nice and full without being stuffed and we told the lady we’d be back again soon.

I think anyone that goes here is going to be happy with it. Just give it a shot.

Top 5 things about Cadao Express
1. Pho
2. Fresh Spring Rolls – huge and delicious
3. Cheap lunch specials
4. Really nice staff
5. There are a LOT of things on the menu I want to try

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s extremely small inside
2. Only open until 8:30pm, so no late night Pho for me
3. The lip-sync music videos showing on the TV will begin to grate on your nerves. (And then there are glittery Asian cowgirls dancing around – which rules on 63 different levels – we have no idea how that made it past the programming screener, but whatever.)
4. Parking at the strip mall isn’t the greatest, but I managed to find a spot
5. There’s an ICE CREAM CAFÉ right next door that I didn’t see until I got too full to actually have dessert. Hahahaha Next time!!!

Cadao Express
6637 Penn Ave S.
Richfield, MN 55423

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