This was my first visit to Green Papaya, but it certainly won’t be my last. My date and I were hungry for a mid-day meal while running errands near Hyde Park Plaza, when she suggested we hit up Green Papaya for lunch. As soon as we entered Green Papaya, it was clear that this was a restaurant that paid attention to the whole package that a great restaurant needs to offer—service, food, and atmosphere. The restaurant’s vaulted ceiling with contrasting trusses, decorative umbrellas, and beautiful flowers gave a preview of the great food presentation they had in store. It felt like a fun venue with a well lit bar at one end and comfortable tables and booths throughout the restaurant.
I was in the mood for some variety with my meal, so I thought a box lunch would be appropriate. Rather than go with sushi or sashimi, I went for the Green Papaya version of Panera’s “Pick-Two”—you can choose two of their main entrees and also enjoy a spring roll, miso soup, rice, and orange wedges for dessert. I settled on a basil chicken dish and a yellow chicken curry. The two dishes were quite different, but they both had tremendous flavor, a variety of vegetables, and were a decent portion size, too. I’ve been to many a thai restaurant where the chef/owner simply throws together a recipe he’s used for years and dumps it on a plate for $8.95. Green Papaya is different. First, the food is terrific—not just above average, but way above average. Second, someone there has noticed that presentation counts. The miso soup is served in medium-sized, contemporary designed white bowls with a large spoon--the focus is entirely on the soup with no distractions on the bowl or saucer. The box meal is served in a compartmentalized tray with contrasting colors and perfect divisions for everything from the main dishes to the sauce to the rice. And it all looks and tastes great. And finally, the service was timely, but not rushed--exactly how a mid-week lunch should be.
Now more about the food. My basil chicken was served with broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and peppers--and of course plenty of basil. The chicken was real chicken and not the chicken-like substances found at low grade Chinese restaurants. It was properly cooked and not dried out. The chicken curry also came with a variety of vegetables including broccoli, peppers, and string beans in a tasty curry sauce. The box came with a small pyramid of brown rice and was more than enough food to keep me satisfied for the afternoon.
Overall, my visit to Green Papaya was a great one. This is definitely a place worth checking out; I’m sure I will do so again soon!
I had been to Green Papaya before, but for dinner rather than lunch. The lunch menu has some different options, which is always fun to see. They also seem to do a fairly booming take-out service at lunch time. Even before our meal, I watched a number of people pick up food, sometimes a couple of bags full, and head out. I’m curious what the take-out presentation looks like, since they do such a great job with it for eat-in.
I was in the mood for sushi, but their lunch box specials looked more interesting, so I investigated the sushi options there. Unfortunately, they don’t allow lunchbox substitutions, and most of the sushi choices included some kind of seafood that I cannot eat. I settled on the sashimi lunchbox option (thinking, incorrectly, that I would get slices of fish on top of rice). It comes with soup, salad, an appetizer, and pad thai. It was a lot of food!
As expected, the presentation was beautiful. The soup came out first, and was fairly typical miso soup, or on the better end of miso, since there is certainly a range from tasteless to pretty good. (I have yet to taste a miso that is better than “pretty good.” If you have found one, let me know!) The lunchbox comes out on a many-segmented tray that looks like a far more complicated version of the Lunchables that my friends used to bring in elementary school. Each item had its own little section, including one for soy sauce. The only part with which I was a little disappointed was the sashimi itself, but that was my own confusion. I thought it would come over rice, but it was just a little pile of raw fish slices. I realize that doesn’t sound very appetizing, but once I got past the confusion of not having rice, it was very good. Mine had salmon, tuna, and flounder. Everything that came in the little sections was very good, although nothing was overly exciting—mostly due to the dishes themselves rather than the restaurant. Like miso, veggie dumplings, side salad, and pad thai are just not candidates in my book for high levels of excitement.
Green Papaya excels at presentation. Their food is very good as well, but it certainly seems to taste even better because it looks so pretty!
Give and Take
2 weeks ago