1056 91 Street SW
True to its name, Mini Mango is a tidy little space set up within a strip mall (of which there are many in Edmonton) on the city’s southside. But contrary to so many Vietnamese noodle joints that I’ve frequented, this establishment has applied some more modern touches, thus resulting in a chicer, compact environment that should appeal to those who are less inclined to visit more hole-in-the-wall type of restaurants. Four and two-top seating arrangements, a corner booth, and even a special section with high stools for solo diners completes the picture here, though I imagine they do get their fare share of take away customers. According to my local contact, the lunch hour here can get hectic, and seemingly a popular place for the stay-at-home moms who perhaps want to have a mid-day meal that is more on the “exotic” side. Such is the life of Alberta suburbia I suppose…
The system in place was very much like Famoso, that I’d visited a few days earlier. Step up to the front counter, place your order, pay there, and then go to your seat and your food would be brought out to you. I don’t think I saw any menu cards or booklets at the tables themselves and my only reference of what there was to eat was the sign board pinned to the wall in the employee-only area connected to the kitchen. Appetizers hitting on things like Vietnamese spring rolls and salads were interspersed with a few other Asian-themed dishes such as kimchi and “Thai” deep fried prawns in wonton wrappers.
3924 N Mississippi Ave
Portland’s dining scene is incredibly diverse. Thai food, in particular, is very good in this city. Pok Pok is renowned for its Issan/Northeastern Thai cuisine….and along Sandy Rd are a number of small family run Thai restaurants (along with a good smattering of Vietnamese and Cambodian). And over in the quickly gentrifying Mississippi District is Mee Sen – a restaurant run by a young crew of Thais that is serving uncompromising Thai food.
Those are indeed deep fried grasshoppers – a common drinking snack in Thailand. Mee Sen serves this delicacy perhaps as a gimmick to differentiate themselves from the rest of the field. The food served here is a good survey of Thai cuisine but definitely leans towards Bangkok style southern Thai. However, noticeably absent from the menu are the all-too common Tom Yum soups, and the red/green/yellow curries found at most typical North American Thai restaurants. Instead you are presented with a menu of curries, salads and soups that are more representative of the cuisine. The flavours and spice levels are authentic – all the food I have had here had the right pungency and heat.
Now that we’re rolling into the fall season and coming back from various journeys over the summer, I thought it would be a good time to do another one of these consolidated posts and provide an update on previously visited places again as a refresher. The links throughout will lead you to original posts and/or commentary on follow up visits. If in doubt if you’ve viewed them all, please do a search on the main page for all your queries…
7357 Edmonds Street
Original post below:
Simple, honest food without pretense but with the tasty flair that only the cuisine of southeast Asia can provide is something that I’ve had a craving for lately, as its been much too long since my last visit to that part of the world (sadly, over a year ago now)…
Located in a dilapidated building along Edmonds Street, very close to the new Burnaby Public Library, is this quaint space known as Lhy Thai, that served as a quick fix for me recently. Inside, the dining quarters are cramped to say the least and you won’t be coming here for the decor. Coupled with the widely unnecessary array of low quality posters that could easily be mistaken for being ripped out of some promotional material for Tourism Thailand encased in cheap frames all over the walls, and the stacks of books near the bar enclosure, and the place feels even more claustrophobic. Where I was seated, I had a decent view into the kitchen area, which I noted was staffed by all female, Thai-speaking cooks.
6010 – 104 St.
(780) 438 – 8338
We have mentioned Syphay on this blog in the past, and have identified it as one of the better Thai restaurants in the city of Edmonton. I personally have yet to find a dish on their menu which I have not liked; from their salads, soups, stirfry’s and especially love their fried fish dishes.
Syphay Platter, includes the sweet pineapple shrimp, spring rolls, and garlic shrimp rolls. We noticed a slight alteration to the platter on our last couple visits – as they removed the Tod Paa Mun (fishcake), but have padded the quantities of the other items to compensate. I do miss the fishcake, but this fried platter of goodness will probably continue to find its way into our order.
1938 w 4th Ave
Vancouver, BC V6J1M5
I have high hopes for Maenam. The chef here is Angus An who used to run the late, lamented Gastropod at this location. He was known for inventive dishes that bordered on molecular. Gastropod was critically acclaimed, but I speculate that it didn’t resonate with the much of Vancouver dining public.
Sometime in the past year, the Gastropod team decided to cut their losses and switch to a new format: high-value (not necessarily “budget”) “authentic” Thai food. Finally, I thought, real Thai food in Vancouver - a city desperately lacking in this great cuisine. Knowing that Angus An worked at London’s Nahm under Australian Thai cuisine expert David Thompson and also knowing that he is married to a Thai, the promise of authenticity should be easy to keep. Angus An (from my own experiences dining at Gastropod) is an exacting, fastidious chef and would go to great lengths to procure the right ingredients and use the proper techniques.
The first time I visited Maenam, I was less than wowed. The menu looked very ordinary – listing only the usual suspects. On sampling the food, I thought that the Thai flavours were muted and compromised. (I am, however, happy to note that things are trending up as of late.)
Thai Place Restaurant
2359 Banff Trail NW
Tel: (403) 338-4405
Original post below:
Given the high volume of restaurants and eateries that we cover here on foodosophy, its become less and less likely that we’ll find that yet undiscovered place that can surprise us…
But on my last visit to Calgary in late-August, I had just that kind of experience. And in of all places… within a cookie cutter, value-priced hotel situated next to one of the busiest commuter roads in the city. Better known as Motel Village (given the other discount places to stay on the same street), its not exactly a prime dinner destination area (although there are a few places to eat directly behind all these hotels – one of which I’ve already posted about).
2872 W Broadway
The delectable intricacies of the mouth watering cuisine from the Kingdom of Thailand – a country that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting at least ten times in my lifetime – sadly gets undue respect here in North America. Perhaps its the fear of the “exotic-ness” that many people associate with the food from this southeast Asia nation, or the complexity of sweet, savory, spicy, sour and bitter that permeates so many of its fine dishes that is confusing to locals more accustomed to meat and potatoes, which results in a “let’s dumb it down” approach that native-Thai proprietors are forced to take in order to survive and try to establish a beachhead for their cooking in a foreign land.
Whatever the case may be, its a darn shame I say…
On a busy strip of West Broadway populated by many local shops and restaurants, I was completely shocked to see the signage for Thai Terrace while driving past in the early evening and in the middle of a downpour. I traverse this section of Vancouver often and it surprised me that I had not seen this place before. With a few diners already inside eating and a couple waiting at the til (apparently to order to go), I decided to turn my car around and stepped inside.
In Canada, the distribution of good Thai restaurants is a bit of a strange thing. Some cities seem to have a great collection of Thai restaurants, and some don’t. Edmonton, oft-maligned for a variety reasons, certainly has a fantastic collection of Thai restaurants. Syphay in the south, to Boualong and Viphalay in the North, these are all great restaurants – though they are all Thai food by way of Laos. Even your generic Thai restaurant, Bua Thai, or Ban Thai are reasonably good. Why? I honestly couldnt tell you. However, what I do know is this does not mean that we don’t have our share of questionable places either. But for the most part, it’s all pretty decent.
Bankok Express is located in Argyll Plaza – an odd assortment of businesses and hotel, it can be pretty easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. Bangkok Express is conceptually more Thai than many other Edmonton Thai restaurants – serving fast, cheap, and fresh food. With no dish over 10 dollars, the price point is fantastic for a cuisine that shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. I’ve always been a bit offended by the prices at establishments like the King and I – nice decor doesnt justify double the prices for half the food.
The interior of Bangkok Express is clean and cafeteria like. You order from a counter with an open kitchen, wait for your order to be called, and pick it up. Things flow fast, and are served fairly promptly, dishes hot. With a limited menu, there is very little time wasted. They could be a bit faster, but i appreciate the extra time they put into cooking everything.
On cold days, i find nothing more soothing than a bowl of soup – preferably, something spicy. Any version of Tom Yum is a great soup for this – light, spicy broth whose heat and acidity evoke memories of warmth, and sunny days. My preference is usually Tom Yum Khaa, but the non-coconut version is usually good too. Unfortuately, the version here is not. The vegetables are reasonably fresh, but the broth is limp, the balance is missing, and it lacks a lot of the subtle undertones that make Tom Yum so memorable. Not enough heat. Not enough acidity, not enough fish sauce, and in general, just a poor bowl.
I ordered the Pad Thai as well, and this was slightly better. The noodles were hot, and had a nice chew, and the peanuts were fragrant and fresh. But once again, the flavour was uniformly oily, and bland. From my standpoint, the brilliance of Thai food lies in balancing key, essential flavours. Pungent, heat, and acidity, along with the textures of crisp, and chewy. This dish lacked any pungency, any heat, and no real acidity. Thoroughly disappointing, considering how simple a wok fried noodle should be.
Considering Bangkok Express is, according to published reviews, run by Thai people (i’ve never been able to distinguish based on language alone), i have to say im pretty disappointed with the outcome. It’s like everything has been taken down 3 notches in order to appease the clientele near their location. After reading many reviews, I was genuinely looking forward to this. “This is how we ate in Thailand!” they would gush. Makes me wonder where they were eating, as this food was really sub par. Thai food is generally fairly basic – and excellent eateries in town manage to demonstrate this on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, Bangkok Express is not one of them.
Montri’s Thai Restaurant
3629 West Broadway
(604) 738 9888
Nestled in a plain looking, one-story row of buildings on the very western edge of West Broadway and slightly recessed from the roadway, is the locally known and popular Montri’s Thai Restaurant.
Clearly in need of a decorative make-over, the space itself feels trapped in the late-Eighties/early-Nineties, and is modestly decorated with some artwork to try and raise up the southeast Asian theme. Of course, a framed photo of Thailand’s beloved King Rama IX is also proudly hung on the wall by the entrance to the kitchen (I’ve got a great story from when I was in Bangkok around the time of his 80th birthday in late-2007, of a Thai friend who explained to me just how much their King is respected, but will refrain in the interests of saving space for this review).
Thai cuisine for me, and visiting Thailand in general is generally a complete assault on the senses. As a street photog, there is nothing more exhilarating than roaming the back roads and side streets of urban Bangkok with a camera and hungry stomach, and coming across little stalls with friendly locals serving up very tasty and inexpensive meals.
Running the gauntlet of sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter, and with regional differences throughout the land, Thai food makes for a truly never-ending gastronomic challenge. And its one that I sincerely enjoy exploring every time I am overseas. Its also nice to know that its slowly becoming accepted into the mainstream here in North America.
The Pad Kee Mao Goong (Drunken Prawns) got our meal off to a hot start. Literally. Even with the middle-range mild spiciness level requested, this was flaming hot! The chili paste was doing its job. I did find that the prawns were bit overcooked, chewy almost. The abundance of veggies in the dish ended up replacing the need for a side salad.
Nothing tells me more about Thai cuisine than a good honest curry. I’m particularly fond of the Gang Kiew-Wan (Green Curry), and was happy to see it on the menu (ordered with chicken). I realize its probably more to do with the color, as so many curries from other cuisines are just red or brown, so its nice to get some variation there. This was ordered at a higher level of heat, and we could instantly taste the difference. It screamed heat and numbed my lips as I was taking in spoonfuls with some steamed rice, that was provided in a cheap imitation silver bowl. The expected creamy texture from the coconut milk and the distinct scent of the Thai basil really worked here. I’d rate this as being acceptable, but not outstanding.
Pad Thai (Thai-style stir-fried noodles) is probably the best known and commonly ordered dish in North American restaurants serving Thai cuisine. I think it has to do largely with its relative ease of interpretation – meaning when you see it on the plate, most North Americans can envision how it will taste and most of the ingredients are familiar to them. I reckon that the wide spread of Chinese cooking comes into play here, as stir fried noodle dishes have become commonplace.
The version at Montri’s was how shall we put it… disappointing. Whereas the the earlier two dishes on our table were bold and robust with flavor, hitting on all cylinders the complex mix of the five taste senses, this one was clearly missing the sharp tanginess of the sour that should play off against the sweetness. And instead of a lime, there was a slice of lemon. The sauce had clung nicely to the noodles, but there was something about it that wasn’t working for me on this night, and the hunger inducing, earthy-scent of fresh ground peanuts wasn’t coming through either.
I can’t comment on where the best Pad Thai is in Vancouver, but I’ve had much better versions from street vendors and high end restaurants in Thailand. I think this is affecting my judgment as I can still remember how great some of them were, literally salivating as I was wolfing it down. Overall, Montri’s is probably not a place I will actively seek out to dine in again, despite its convenient location for me these days.
[Apologies once again for the cell phone images]