Montri’s Thai Restaurant – Vancouver, BC

Montri’s Thai Restaurant
3629 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 738 9888

Montri's Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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]

Montri's Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon


9 thoughts on “Montri’s Thai Restaurant – Vancouver, BC

  1. It sounds like Montri’s has definitely gone downhill since Chef Montri retired and moved back to Thailand (I haven’t been in a number of years now.) Unfortunately, Vancouver does not have a strong Thai scene…but I do remember being much better years ago.

    I’m hoping someone like Gastropod’s Angus An (who worked under Aussie David Thompson at Michelin starred Thai restaurant Nahm in London) would seize the opportunity to open a Thai place here.

  2. gastronomydomine, based on your observations, which is the “best” Thai restaurant in Vancouver right now?

    shokutsu, I agree with your statement regarding Pad Thai. In most “Thai” places I have been, the Pad Thai has been too sweet for my liking (as if they have been made with catsup or a tomato based sauce). Oddly enough, everybody seems to like it that way. Is it my taste buds? Now, whether it has been bastardized or every cook in Vancouver are from a region that makes them that way, I can’t say. It wasn’t until a trip to Seattle/Tukwila two or so years ago that I finally got a non overly sweet version of it. I am sure cooks in Vancouver can do the same, if not better…

    Oh, please do tell the story! ^_^

  3. I used to frequent Montri’s back when Chef Montri was still there so I was not ‘overly’ surprised to hear that it’s sliding down a slippery slope.

    @ KimHo: I agree, too catsuppy is a turnoff. I would have to say that the best ‘known’ thai place that you shouldn’t assume is the ‘best’ is The Thai House. As a quick pick-up alternative, and this may not directly answer your question, I’d say that Khai Thai To Go is a very good value and overall quality. Again, keeping in mind you are at a take-out joint.


  4. It has been a while since I’ve had any Thai in Vancouver and things could have changed since then, but I’ve had good (for Vancouver) Thai at Sala Thai (I hear that the Skytrain construction really cramped their style), Sawasdee and O-Thai (which sadly also lost their chef. He used to run a Thai restaurant in NYC).

    I didn’t include Montri’s but I think at one point he made the best Thai food here (even Angus An – who knows his stuff – declared it best….but that was when Montri was cooking).

    At another forum, some others have recommended Rua Thai (never been), Baan Wasana (never been), Thai Pudpong (never been), Arroy-D (I’m not a fan), Simply Thai (also not a fan).

    There is a rumour of an authentic Thai-Lao place in Langley, but I have not been able to find it. My radar is on, though.

    On Pad Thai – the “proper” way is to use a ripe tamarind paste which is sweet and sour. I believe the ketchup is a common “shortcut” used in households even in Thailand. This topic reminds me of the differences between versions of dan dan mian.

  5. I should note that I have a prejudice against broccoli and carrots (used in some Asian foods – especially Thai). Whenever I see it – I run! I’m surprised to see broccoli in the pictures above…I’m pretty sure that they did not use those ingredients when I have dined at Montri’s. It’s a real indicator of decline there.

  6. Interesting to hear of the previous ‘glory years’ of this establishment, as I was unaware (by not having lived here at the time). Seemed that they still had a strong fanbase, judging from the packed room on this night though. Whether that is out of convenience, comfort, nostalgia or just plain ignorance of what ‘real’ Thai cuisine is, I am not fully sure.

  7. The problem with the food at Montri’s isn’t really that it’s not authentic, but that it just doesn’t taste good. It’s great to have both authenticity and excellence, okay to have one or the other, deadly to have neither.

    As for why it’s so popular- and they do continuously turn people away- I think it’s about past glory and the fact that it’s a big, well-lit, somewhat boisterous venue where it’s possible to go with a group and be surrounded by people generally having a good time- if not eating well. That, and lack of competition in the immediate area.

  8. I’m in full agreement with you stinkoid. It also indicates to me the very real void in Thai food in this city…where else will these people go? One of the reasons I don’t eat Thai here these days is the sure disappointment I will experience. There are other cuisines that this city does well so I will eat those instead.

    Too bad Montri didn’t have an able protege to succeed him when he left.

  9. >stinkoid
    Personally, taste good + authentic is real important to me as a ‘must’ pairing, and Montri’s didn’t seem to have either. 🙂 Granted I know some ingredients will be harder for them to get, thus the substitutions required to be able to conduct business in a foreign country. I’m not sure when you were there last, but I wouldn’t classify this place as ‘well-lit’, even with a much faster lens on a proper camera (if I had it on me at the time), I would have been hard pressed to get a decent image of the plates on our table. As for ‘big’, it was really cramped in a not a large space, unless they’ve downsized from the past.

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