November 4, 2007

Good Deals at Red Mei in Old Town

Yesterday I stopped into Red Mei on King Street in Old Town, Alexandria, for lunch with some friends. I've passed by the place numerous times but was always just a little wary since they advertise every entree just $5.99. I know it's a great deal, but that's just it: I thought it might be too good to be true. It's a sort of Thai-Chinese fusion restaurant. It was clean inside with an open kitchen, so you can watch what's being done to your food. You have the option to sit either on stools at a counter (try to sit by the window, it makes for great people-watching!) or at tables further in the back. You go to the counter and order from the menu hanging above the kitchen, and then they call you when your food is ready.

There are a couple of articles on the wall about the place, and after reading them I decided to order the Shrimp Garden Rolls (or were they called summer rolls?) for an appetizer and then the Shrimp Pad Thai for my entree. The reviewer was right about the summer rolls - they seemed to be rolled too loosely so it felt like the filling was going to fall out. But I ordered them because I love that fresh taste of shrimp and lettuce and cilantro. They were not served with a peanut sauce as I have usually seen them, but instead with a spicy chili sauce - an interesting change. The Pad Thai was "tangy" just like it said in the article, but I enjoyed it. The shrimp were not particularly flavorful but not fishy either, so I shouldn't complain considering it was under $6!

My friends ordered the Kung Pao Shrimp and the Mongolian Beef. Both of them thought there was too much sauce on the dishes, but the nice thing about this place is that if you have a special request, (i.e. "give me half the usual amount of sauce") you can tell them when you order and they'll accomodate you. I tasted both the Kung Pao Shrimp and the Mongolian Beef, and I thought they were both pretty tasty. The Beef had plenty of sliced mushrooms, and both dishes come with rice. They both actually seemed a little too salty for me, whereas the Pad Thai did not. I asked when ordering if they use MSG in their food, and they said no, so I think it's just the sauces that might be a little heavy on salt.

They have a decent selection of drinks - Two of us got bottled water, my other friend got a Snapple. I didn't see any alcoholic drinks, but there were several other choices for soft drinks. The service was really friendly and quick, even though their cash register had apparently just broken and they were calculating the checks by hand. The bathrooms were ok - kind of what you expect for a small place that's a mix between a restaurant and fast food carryout - only one bathroom per gender, and yet again, MORE PINK SOAP! One negative we noticed was the trashcan near the fountain drink machine was kind of overflowing.

Speaking of carryout, they have a great carryout/curbside service option: You call ahead and place your order, you pull up outside the restaurant, and THEY BRING YOUR FOOD TO YOUR CAR! Which is really great considering it's on King Street in Old Town, and finding a place to park for even 5 minutes can be a real hassle, especially around dinnertime.

All in all, a great deal, a cute spot, and several meal choices that could keep you interested.

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