Madison's Rising Sons Deli delivers Thai food that's healthy, tasty

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Bill Livick, Special to the Gazette
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MADISON—Laotian/Thai food is the one cuisine that I probably could eat daily for years without losing interest.

Considering the many fresh vegetables and aromatic spices commonly used in Thai and Laotian recipes, a person's diet could consist almost entirely of the stuff without compromising good health.

I recently discovered a wonderful little restaurant specializing in Laotian/Thai food, although the place has had the same State Street location for at least a few years. I'm not sure how I missed it until now.

Rising Sons Deli is actually a sit-down restaurant with good service. Khen and Be Macvilay owned a grocery store and deli near St. Mary's Hospital on Park Street for many years until they decided to open a full-service restaurant about seven years ago. Their first restaurant was at University Square, and when the mall was razed for redevelopment, Rising Sons moved to State Street.

The dining room is a long, narrow affair with counter service and more than a half-dozen tables. The room is bright and vibrant, with colorful décor and at least one flat-screen television.

On the night of our visit last Friday, a friend and I sat in an interesting outdoor patio area that's about 6 feet wide and 20 feet long. The exposed brick wall of a neighboring building and the brick wall of the building that houses Rising Sons are covered by a bright green, leafy vine.

The Macvilays have added little decorative touches, such as small flowering plants and statuettes, making the space intimate and quaint.

But we came for the food, and the kitchen delivered. My dining companion informed me that meals are sometimes slow in coming, and the service is not the greatest. Our server was friendly but had a few minor missteps.

Still, the food—and the experience itself—was quite good.

We started with a couple of spring rolls ($3)—noodles, ground pork, lettuce, carrots, mint and cilantro wrapped in rice paper, with peanut sauce on the side. It was difficult to detect any meat, but the rolls offered lots of good flavor and crunchy texture.

My friend's order of Pad Thai ($9.50) with shrimp featured rice noodles stir fried with eggs, bean sprouts and peanut sauce—all topped with cilantro and peanuts. It came in a generous portion and hit all the right notes.

The kitchen's curry squash ($8.95) featured red curry paste with coconut milk and squash, although none of the broccoli that was included in the menu description. Curry dishes are served with white rice and a choice of proteins: beef, chicken, pork, shrimp or tofu. I opted for tofu, which is usually a good choice with anything that's heavily spiced because tofu picks up the flavor.

The menu warned that this is a very spicy dish, but to my palate it seemed only moderately hot.

I was happy with the restaurant's superb tom kha kai soup ($7.95), a savory blend of coconut milk and lemongrass with galangal, chilies, mushroom, onion and white-meat chicken. It comes in a large portion with a side of white rice and is served very hot.

For dessert, we ordered a couple of Thai iced teas ($3.50), which were so sweet that we couldn't take more than a few sips.

Other desserts include coconut sticky rice topped with vanilla ice cream, palm seed and whipped cream ($3.95), coconut sticky rice topped with custard ($3.95), the sticky rice topped with mango (for the same price) or a deep-fried plantain coated with coconut batter ($3).

Just a block from the UW-Madison campus and Library Mall, Rising Sons' general vibe is youthful, upbeat and friendly.

It's easy to have a full meal and a drink for $10, which seems like a good deal for food that is not only filling but also healthy and delicious.

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