Dan dan noodles, one of the popular noodle dishes available at Harbinger.
By Wini Moranville
While Harbinger chef Joe Tripp’s Asian/Southeast Asian-inspired small plates are already greatly admired by the food cognoscenti, his rice and noodle bowls and banh mi sandwiches are still a relatively well-kept secret. They’re only served on Sundays, and until just last month, they were only served until 3 p.m. (the restaurant was closed Sunday nights).
Now, Harbinger’s doors stay open and the full-meal bowls are available Sunday evenings until 9 p.m.; these include Tripp’s takes on dan dan noodles (Sichuan-style pork and noodles), shrimp pad thai, tom yum moo (a rice-noodle soup with roasted pork belly), oyakodon (a chicken thigh/scrambled egg bowl with rice) and a Japanese chicken katsu curry (with rice). A Vietnamese banh mi sandwich is also on the menu.
On a recent visit, two of us ordered the tom yum moo and a banh mi, splitting each for an utterly satisfying soup-and-sandwich experience. It’s rare, I feel, for dishes to explode with so much flavor without being mostly about heat. Tripp later told me that tom yum is “one of those dishes that everyone makes slightly different.” His is patterned after a version he found in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that was loaded with peanut and lime in a clear pork soup.
Fresh bread is key to a banh mi sandwich, and Tripp says they get their rolls every Sunday from the bakery of the amazing C Fresh Market in Des Moines. The house-made sausage on the sandwich is, according to Tripp, a Vietnamese-style lemongrass sausage known as nem nuong; the sandwich is mounded with house chile jam, pickles, fresh herbs and seasoned fish sauce.
I’m always looking for a way to ease out of the weekend in a happy, laid-back way, and I could see making a habit out of Sunday nights at Harbinger.
Harbinger is at 2724 Ingersol Ave.; 515-244-1314; harbingerdsm.com.
Wini Moranville writes about food, wine and dining for dsm magazine and dsmWeekly. Follow her on Facebook at All Things Food–DSM.