Friday, September 20, 2013

Fine dining in the strip malls of Greensboro

That nagging voice in the back of my head that insists I will not find good food in the restaurants in strip malls is often right, however there has been a stretch of exceptions recently that has me thinking I should try them more often. First we found Kannika’s Thai Kitchen here in Greenville, and then we had fabulous food two nights in a row in Greensboro.

The mixed grill, with chicken kebab, shish kebab, kofta, beef and chicken shawerma
The first place was close to our hotel (and therefore the highway), and was suggested by my husband who had eaten there once on business. He not only enjoyed the food, but was floored by the attention from the owner, who  helped make the evening a memorable experience. Our visit was no different, as Chef Samir was in the kitchen!

Unassuming from the exterior
Chef Samir Shaltout serves authentic Egyptian/Mediterranean/Arabic food using fresh ingredients and flavorful meat. The mixed grill was perfect for those looking to try a bit of all of it, but there are also a wide range of vegetarian options, soups and appetizers. We were served large portions for a fair price, the service was attentive and helpful with explanations (I wasn’t too familiar with the desserts and drinks on the menu) and the restaurant was super-family friendly. I was only disappointed that they were out of the caramel dessert, but according to the server it always goes quickly when Chef Samir has made up a bunch. The flip side was that I was able to try the Umm Ali - delicious, and a perfect end to a wonderful meal. Please be aware that Chef Samir Shaltout does not serve alcoholic beverages.

Chef Samir Shaltout on Urbanspoon
The following night I chose a Thai place, also close to the hotel, and once more we were not disappointed. My first impression (strip mall aside) of Pho Hien Voung wasn’t the most positive, as they seated us at the opposite end of the restaurant as all the other patrons, I’m assuming because of the boys. But the service was impeccable and most importantly, the food absolutely delicious! I would be hard pressed to choose between it and my hometown favorite Thai place, something I’m not sure I ever thought I would say!

The interior is rather forgettable - the food most definitely is not
I was surprised not to see satay on the appetizer menu but gave them the benefit of the doubt (as they are a Vietnamese and Thai place) and ordered the fried spring roll instead. We ordered drinks, and even as I brought out a book to keep Mikus occupied the appetizer and Thai ice coffee were served. This was the first surprise, as I’ve had iced coffee at Thai restaurants across the country, however I have never had it as it was at Pho Hien Voung. Imagine an individual tea kettle, but with coffee, and you might understand the contraption that was set before me; I required instructions from our server! First I was to wait for the hot water to finish filtering through the coffee into the bottom portion. Then, I was to remove the little plate on top and flip it onto the table. After putting the top portion of the device onto this little plate I could stir the coffee into the cream, and finally I was instructed to pour the result into the glass provided, over the ice. It tasted just as it should, but the experience was completely unique!

Our food was also presented in a flash. I had no sooner finished sighing in delight over my spring roll than the main course was in front of me. My husband ordered the chicken/beef/shrimp stir fried with lemon grass & onions over steamed vermicelli noodles, and I was jealous for about five seconds until I had a second bite of my beef broccoli. I only wish I had been more adventuresome as they have a great menu of soups, pho and all sorts of vegetarian options, but in the end all four of us ate well from the two entrees and couldn’t have been any happier with the food. A great value, excellent Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, and they do serve alcoholic beverages if you are so inclined.

Pho Hien Voung on Urbanspoon


  1. It sounds like you hit gold with both those places. I've often found that the best and most authentic food is found in funny and unexpected places. Often the big name restaurant in a city location with fancy decor is far removed from the original cuisine in quality. I'm surprised though that the Vietnamese/ Thai place wasn't so welcoming to the boys - the Vietnamese just love children, and in our experience have always made a huge fuss of our children. xx

  2. Oh be still my heart on that first kebab dish!

  3. Of course I would love to try the Thai/Vietnamese iced coffee... please add to your list of "must visits" when we come visit!

  4. Back when I lived in Texas (so like a million years ago) there was a restaurant in a strip mall called, Mason's Fine European Dining. I was always curious but would pass it by because of it's location. One day I gave in and gave it a try, it was INCREDIBLE! It quickly became our favorite family restaurant. Now, I'll always give a place a chance no matter where it's located.


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