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]