I usually tend to stay away from writing about restaurants in 이태원 (Itaewon). Not because they aren’t good, but because I feel that a lot of foreign food bloggers tend to focus heavily on them. There are so many fantastic foreign restaurants outside of the Itaewon bubble, but occasionally I can’t help but blog about a super tasty find (even if it is in Itaewon). This is one of those times.
Ma i Mien is a cozy lil’ Thai restaurant owned by Korean celebrity 홍석천 (Hong Seok-Cheon). It’s relatively new to the Itaewon scene, having only been open for about four months now. The interior is simple, but colorful with deep browns and reds accented with bright yellows, teals and greens. They also have a lovely little terrace for outdoor seating. Despite the terrace, seating is still quite limited. In fact, every time I’ve gone for lunch it’s always been packed up. So if you’re a bit pressed for time at lunch, you may want to arrive before noon.
As for the food… I am yet to be disappointed. The menu isn’t extensive, but it has a little bit of everything: soup noodles, “dry” noodles, curries and stir fried rice. There are also a few stand alone items like papaya chicken salad, mango sticky rice and two different types of skewers.
Pad thai is undoubtedly my favorite Thai dish. Whenever I order it I always know exactly what to expect, so I was a bit surprised to receive something that looked a bit like a pad thai omelet. There were noodles, green onion, lots of shrimp and bean sprouts. All the usual pad thai ingredients, but they were tangled in a large amount of scrambled egg. Despite it’s unusual appearance, it was quite good and not too greasy. The flavor reminded me a bit more of pad see ew because it was on the sweeter side, but that was more of a plus for me.
My favorite dish is the beef cueotio nue toon nam, which is a Thai market style soup. The simplest way to describe it would be to call it a beef noodle soup, but it’s so much more. The dish mostly consists of green onions and a hardy helping of noodles complimented with a variety of tender pieces of beef. What really makes the dish is the broth itself. The taste is practically indescribable. I suppose you could say it’s like a blissful bowl of spices and flavor. I hardly ever finish the broth when eating a type of noodle soup, but in this case I just couldn’t put my spoon down.
For something fresh and perhaps even a little dessert-ish, the mango sticky rice really hits the the spot. It comes with 3 balls of rice doused in coconut milk and divided with juicy pieces of mango. On the other hand, the papaya chicken salad has more of a kick to it. This dish comes with two savory chicken satay skewers, two bundles of rice noodles, puffed pork rinds and shredded papaya mixed with red peppers, dried shrimp, peanuts, and cherry tomatoes. It was surprisingly spicy. Delicious, but so spicy. Other than that, it’s the perfect dish for two.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the Thai tea is a must have. It is really sweet, but that is particularly helpful if you’re eating a spicy dish, like the papaya chicken salad. I get it every time. Sometimes I just stop by to get a cup to go. It’s refreshingly tasty!
Overall, Ma i Mien is a fantastic place to grab some great Thai food prepared by some great Thai chefs. The staff is also super friendly and helpful. The food of course is flavorful, filling and surprisingly very reasonably priced. It’s a particularly great place to stop by for lunch. So next time you’re in the mood for Thai food, give Ma i Mien a try.
서울시 용산구 이태원동 11-26 (보광로 111)