35 N. Iowa Ave., 477-1157
While speaking with Juan Pablo Sandoval for my review of Juan Pablo's last week, he insisted I head to his sister Rosy's restaurant La Carreta to try the popular barbacoa lamb tacos ($12.95). And so I did, tackling four soft corn rounds jammed with a gamey mush of stew meat. Raw white onions, a cilantro tangle, lime wedges and a plastic ramekin of the same scorching habañero sauce from Juan Pablo's arrived on the side for self-garnishing, and soon I was sweating with deep satisfaction.
Even better, the price included a bowl of lamb consommé bearing stringier bits of the stew meat with hominy. After adding too much habañero sauce, I requested a dollop of crema to cool it. It was only while tipping back a super-sweet house horchata ($2.50) that I noticed a painting of Homer Simpson as a Mexican bandito doing its part to adorn the bright yellow, blue and red walls, also graced with a fun volcano mural. — Matthew Schniper
21 E. Kiowa St., 473-8105, yoomae.com
With his United Rolls of America series long since complete and a car-themed sushi series also lapped out, Yoo Mae owner/chef JJ Kim is on to his next whimsical tribute: international rolls. So far, a tempura bacon-bearing Canada roll is available along with a spicy poke and crab Mexico roll. And a couple weeks ago, an England roll ($13.99) debuted as a spin-off of fish 'n chips. It bears tempura cod wrapped in eel-sauce-streaked rice under an avocado-sliver cap, all then buried in a snow of panko flakes and a stringy mohawk of superfine shoestring fries.
All in all, it's as unruly as English teeth, with fatty textures colliding with crunch and serious sodium (especially after a soy dip) — fun, but lacking a certain je ne sais quoi for finish. A simple side sweet pumpkin roll ($3.99), actually pickled shavings of the Japanese calabash gourd, called kanpyo, delivers a semi-tart, mild sweetness that's nice with the side ginger shavings. — Matthew Schniper
Thai Lily Cuisine and Yakitori 8
319 N. Chelton Road, 597-8374, thailily.comcastbiz.net
Thai Lily, or Roungnapa as it was known until 2010, is one of those relaxing Asian lunch spots where natural light streams through the windows, dimly illuminating customers of all backgrounds. Two TVs singing the song of Rachael Ray — audio from the back running two seconds behind — filled a medium-sized dining room covered with wood paneling, the bottom half painted magenta.
Our meal began with a small bowl of chicken broth — clear and hot, with little square crisps bobbing along the top. It was included with our orders of pad Thai ($7.15), which came with shrimp and chicken, and a green curry ($7.25) that saw those proteins and raised them slices of beef and pork, too. The former needed lime, and the noodles were a little dense and grill-tasting, but still pleasant; the latter was a beast of heat, as requested, and only the soggy shrimp seemed off. — Bryce Crawford