May 31, 2011
The Green Papaya blends in, almost invisibly into the rows of shops on Wasson Street, and because of its inconspicuous looks, I’d say it is one of Cincinnati’s best kept secrets. Just walk inside and experience the perfect ambience, a quite monastic temperament that makes me think of an ancient serenity garden. The therapeutic babbling of feng shui waterfalls, jungle ferns and sacred stones with artifacts of enlightened empires hang on the wall. Boardwalks creaked under my nike kicks, the mood music is relaxing, but audibly arresting like the soundtrack to a first massage.
I stood in disbelief for a moment, drinking it all in. I finally experienced that true moment of Zen, chakras aligned, yin and yang’s balanced, an Eastern religious nirvana of material rejection and spiritual fulfillment. Then in the midst of whatever private euphoria I was experiencing, a petite looking Thai waitress in pretty black drab smiles, tilted her head and led the way to a booth in the sun. Jade drapery covers the tables with a golden papaya as a friendly reminder of the location.
People around me were immersed in the beautiful exile, the parties next to us quietly finishing their Pad Thai, finishing their Yellowtail rolls, their vegetable curry. I ordered the ten piece Tri-state Roll ($12.95) at my waitress’s recommendation, since being of the male persuasion I frequently end up doing whatever women tell me. Not suffering the burdens of my gender, my dining companion went with the Pad Thai Noodles ($5.95).
The chop-stick licking Tri-State roll was tuna, salmon, yellowtail, cucumber and tempura flakes smothered in smelt roe (i.e. fish eggs for those of you who aren’t sushi buffs) and spicy mayonnaise. For those of you who say “you’ll never eat sushi unless you are on a coast city,” well let me tell you New York and L.A. have nothing on this little restaurant on Wasson Street.
The Pad Thai = Thai noodles, stir fried with egg, ground peanuts, bean sprouts and scallions. Such a simple sounding item when it’s read off of menu literature, but a complex, tangy and obsessive taste when its experienced. I loved everything at the Green Papaya and let’s just say my date did as well – she handled her Pad Thai Noodles the same way Godzilla took care of Tokyo.