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Sunflower: You Haunt My Dreams

9 January 2009 1,785 views 5 Comments

imperial rollsMy dear friend Sara has been living in Sao Paolo, Brasil since this summer. She’s there for a total of two years working as a fifth grade teacher in an international school. She hasn’t yet found good Vietnamese food there so it just made sense that we would eat dinner at one of her favorite spots in Austin last night.

The first time I experienced Sunflower was with Sara and she made it so special. We were with a group of people and Sara expertly ordered for the table. I don’t know about you, but personally, I love it when other people (who know me and know what they’re doing) take charge and order for me in a restaurant.

She did the same thing last night and we had an almost identical, mouth-wateringly delicious menu. Of the things she ordered, all but one were absolutely fantastic. They included:

veg crepeVegetarian Imperial Rolls – Fried rice paper rolls filled with minced vegetables and tofu. $2.75

Vegetarian Crepe – Tofu, shitake mushrooms, sprouts, mung bean, tumeric crepe. Wrapping lettuce, mint, and tangy soy on the side. $7

Sunflower Special Batter Fried Prawns - Fried prawns (with shells that you eat) and garlic noodles. $13.95

Vegetarian Tofu Salad - Steamed tofu with traditional cabbage salad and syo. $6.25

Lemongrass Tofu - $7.95

The underwhelming dish was the lemongrass tofu — there was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t as veg tofu saladright as the others. The imperial rolls are fried but they aren’t like fried spring rolls. They are both crunchy and chewy at the same time with a delectable dipping sauce.

The vegetarian crepe looks like a huge omlette with filling. You wrap it in the lettuce with carrots and spicy sauce on top and take a bite. Yum!

The batter fried prawns are one of the few dishes in Austin that have been featured in my dreams. They come with four prawns (there were five of us but thank goodness Jen doesn’t eat seafood). The prawns are fried in their shells and meant to be eaten that way. They are served overtop the most perfect comfort food next to mac ‘n cheese — garlic noodles.

prawnsThe vegetarian tofu salad has one of the most boring descriptions on the menu (see above) but was truly delicious with crunch, sweet and sour taste, and nuttiness.

The one dish I would get had I been eating with more meat eaters is the Shaken Beef. Next time!

The service at Sunflower is very poor to say the least. They are as famous for their rudeness as they are for their delicious food.

But at this point, for me, their miserable attitude almost adds to the charm. It cracks me up that the owners sit in the back with their laptop computers out – typing away instead of checking on the customers.

girlsWhen you go, don’t expect friendly service but you will get your food in a timely manner without a lot of unnecessary small talk. When it’s time to go, you’ll have to ask the owner to ring you up because they don’t bring the check to the table.

I feel that the food is good enough to make up for Sunflower’s shortcomings. If these things bother you, at least get some food for takeout. Or, head up north to Le Soleil which features wonderful customer service by the ex-husband of one of the women who run Sunflower.

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  • Greg Gordon

    I love this restaurant. I will trade the “service” for the HUGE price savings. The food quality also makes up for the (lack of) service. Nice review Jodi Bart!

  • Adam Norwood

    I’ve always — well, almost always — enjoyed Sunflower. The food’s tasty, it’s cheap, both veggie and meat options are very good, and usually it’s pretty fast service. I’ve gone with Vietnamese friends who know what to order off-menu (they do make pho, if you know how to ask for it!). I’ve never really had a problem with the service, although I remember it being a bit of a meltdown when we took our Friday lunch group there. Alas, no record of that event exists, so I don’t remember what rating it received. Sunflower also gets bonus points for being really close to Coco’s Cafe where I can get a bubble tea or shaved ice thing for dessert!

    PS: I recently learned that paying at the register is a part of Vietnamese culture: it’s considered rude for a restaurateur to bring the bill to a guest’s table, as it implies that they want to rush you out the door. Or so I’m told.

  • katie c

    oh sweet! vietnamese is one of my favorites….thanks for the heads up!

    (found your blog while doing a “hey cupcake! vegan cupcake” search! love it…)

  • Sara Ballon

    It was a fun night, Jodi! :) The funny thing is, I have been there no less than 40 times in the past 5 years and they never smile at me at me like I am an old friend. You know, sometimes you just want ta little recognition. The food was delicious the other night…and even though the Lemongrass Tofu was not as great as the other dishes, I still contend that it is one of the best tofu dishes I have ever had. Anywhere. It’s tasty. Also, we ate our faces off, drank beer, AND left a decent tip (despite the poor service), and we got out of there for 15 bucks a person. In Sao Paulo, that meal would have easily cost three times that! Yeah! for cheap Austin eats.

  • lovejojo

    We got takeout from here a couple of weeks ago on your recommendation and LOVED LOVED LOVED the Shaken Beef. Holy shit.