Rua's latest pop-up dinner serves up exotic food amid growing dining scene in downtown Warsaw

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By: Tom Westerhof

Tiki masala chicken wings from a recent pop-up dining event by Rua. (Flavor 574 photo/Tom Westerhof)

If the fantastic food prepared and expertly presented at the latest pop-up dinner by Andrew Jones and Andrew Holladay, the proprietors of the soon-to-open Rua, is any indication of what we can expect once their restaurant debuts in Warsaw, then the collective consciousness of the downtown dining scene of my hometown is in for a jolt.

The exotic odors soon to be emanating from the decades old walls of 108 E. Market St. will be too enticing to resist, and if the moderate pricing from their pop-up dinner transitions to their menu, the downtown area is going to need a whole lot more parking spaces.

Featuring four courses which, if I recall correctly, were referred to as “snacks,” “appetizers,” “main courses” and “desserts,” along with four home brew offerings from John Stangland, Rua’s pop-up dinner functioned not only as a tempting tease for its potential clientele but a dry run to see how the kitchen staff would hold up under the weight of a dinner crush.

Even though many of the people helping out that night were family and friends, Rua showed that it was more than capable of turning out orders quickly (in a cramped and temporary kitchen, no less) in a manner that your sense of taste could enjoy, and your eyes could feast on. All of the dishes were expertly prepared and presented in a way one would expect from a high-end restaurant, which appears to be leaning towards an exotic cuisine.

While there were many highlights among the multitude of dishes we were able to sample, the standout for me on the evening was a dish described as “rice noodle salad, beef tenderloin, pine nuts, bean sprouts, baby lettuces.” Featuring tenderly prepared beef tenderloin strips atop a bed of noodles and greens with nuts dispersed intermittently and accompanied by a vinegar sauce with a hint of peanut to drizzle over the top, it bore a striking resemblance in appearance and taste to “bun thit nuong bo,” a Vietnamese dish my mother made for us as children and one she still blesses us with today.

If this plate makes the cut for their debut menu, that may very well be the nomenclature used to label it and if that indeed comes true, future customers of Rua should get used to pronouncing it. The best compliment I can pay to Asian cuisine is to compare it favorably to my Vietnamese mother’s, and in the case of Rua I would dare say it rivals even her version. Just don’t tell her that.

With audible oohs and aahs echoing off the walls from the patrons, it was clear that Jones and Holladay had made an impression on their guests, one that will surely continue once the doors to their new restaurant swing open. I just want to see if a few of those oohs and aahs come from my mom.

To stay up to date on the grand opening of Rua and any other events leading up to it, you can “like” them on Facebook.

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