The vegetarian squash curry doesn’t need any meat to satisfy.
It’s fun to see how Sauk Point Square has developed as a center of world cuisine for the far west side. The shopping center, at the intersection of High Point and Old Sauk roads, hosts Swagat (Indian), Oliva (Mediterranean), New Seoul (Korean) and has housed Mexican and Indonesian restaurants, too — a veritable Williamson Street in the burbs. Now it’s also home to the Thai and Laotian restaurant Rising Sons, which has opened its second location; the original remains on lower State Street. Although it’s a bit tucked away in the former El Burrito Loco space, there’s a steady flow of customers throughout the day.
The spring rolls are a good start — fresh, crunchy carrots and lettuce cozy up to vermicelli, all wrapped up in rice paper. They’re served with a sweet-and-sour sauce that’s thinner and lighter than the usual sugar-laden, bright pink version and has just a hint of spice.
The fried meatballs also didn’t last long at our table. These delectable little bites of ground pork are surrounded by a crispy, deep-fried shell and come with the sweet-and-sour sauce.
Pad Thai is always a good barometer at a Thai restaurant, and this version more than passes. Stir-fried rice noodles are rounded out with generous amounts of egg, tender beef, crunchy bean sprouts and homemade sauce, served with a lime wedge for a touch of sour and topped with peanut bits for even more crunch. The only thing missing was cilantro, listed as a topping but appearing only as a tiny sprig.
Fans of curry dishes will be pleased to find six, including a very pleasurable curry squash that stands alone without any addition of meat. Still-crisp broccoli and cauliflower, crinkle-cut carrot strips, bamboo shoots and generous cubes of tender butternut and kabocha squashes, all in a delicious red curry coconut milk sauce that had just enough kick to keep you on your toes.
The thom khem is a simple dish served with tender pieces of pork in a brown sugar soy sauce with a hard-boiled egg alongside. This dish had a nice intertwining of sweet and salty flavors to keep it interesting.
Spicier, but just as good, is the keng keow vane with bamboo shoots, green beans, basil, Thai eggplant and chicken in a green curry sauce. Lovers of serious spice should try the pad pet basil, with stir-fried basil leaves, garlic, mushroom, baby corn, green beans, carrot, green bell pepper and perfectly cooked pork, simmered in a savory chili sauce.
But my favorite has been the drunken noodles, a dish with wide rice noodles that absorb the flavor of the sauce they’re simmered in along with carrot strips, bok choy, and the most flavorful tofu I’ve ever tasted. This had a building heat to it, but even the adventurous 8-year-old who first ordered it at our table liked it.
Rising Sons serves 11 different soups. Overwhelmed with the choices, I went with the kao soy, on the suggestion of my server. Widely served in northern Laos and Thailand, this was another absolute favorite. Those same lovely, thick rice noodles from the drunken noodles dish were back, along with ground pork and bean sprouts simmered in a savory tomato and bean paste broth. There were chunks of tomato and a hearty garnish of fresh cilantro and scallions. This big bowl made for a very satisfying lunch.
Another good bet for a quick, inexpensive lunch are the noontime specials. Many menu mainstays are just $8, which includes a choice of the crab rangoon or the chicken satay appetizer, both marvelous.
Rising Sons scores points on all fronts: atmosphere, service, serving size, ingredients. The staff even dolls up the plates with impressively carved carrot roses — one of those little touches that makes a place feel extra special.
745 N. High Point Road, Madison, 608-841-1884, risingsonsmadison.com
11 am- 8 pm Mon.-Sat., 4-8 pm Sun., $3-$11