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.
Seeking an easy take away meal and not having the faintest clue if this place would be reliable, I took the shameful, easy way out and ordered one of their nightly special dinners. For under ten dollars, I selected the Pad Thai, that came with a side green leaf salad, a deep fried spring roll and some Tom Yum soup.
What appeals to me most about Pad Thai is the diverse range of textures – the chewiness of the rice noodles, the crunch from the chopped peanuts, the crispness of the bean sprouts – and of course the mix of flavors one can get when its really well put together. Tamarind with its distinctive contrast of sweet and tartness, fish sauce for the salt, and the sour component coming from lime juice – this balance is crucial. As well, the done-ness level of the rice noodles plays a central role in helping me decide if its a solid offering or not. As for volume, Thai Terrace did not disappoint, as the heaping mound attests, this was more than enough for me as a solo diner. Unfortunately, overall this dish was very bland, and had none of the winning combination of flavours that makes this such a universally popular Thai dish.
Further, the spring roll was nothing to write home about, as it was a dense, dull mini log. And the side salad was not cut up fine enough, as each strand of lettuce was as long as distance from my wrist to the tips of my fingers.
Lastly, the sample of Tom Yum soup that came in its own separate container, that pleasantly held a tight lid and did not spill at all during the time I took to transport it home. Nothing worse that ordering take out and having a liquid component spill and splash around in the plastic bag containing your meal.
I know there are many people who don’t really like this soup, mainly for the fact that its swings on both ends of the seesaw of flavours from hot to sour. Not to mention the often detested fragrant elements such as tamarind, fish sauce, lemon grass, kaffir lime, and chili, that complicates things and is a big change for most Canadian diners more used to the simplicity of French Onion soup or Clam Chowder. Though from this sampling, they wouldn’t get a real good introduction to what this fine soup can really be about – as I found the lemon grass seemed to be overpowering all the other tastes inside.
Now I’ve heard good things coming from the opening of Maenam by chef Angus An (who’s Gastropod I thoroughly enjoyed!), so I think there is a growing appreciation and hope for Thai cuisine in Vancouver. But its still a long way from being well represented in multiple outlets in my humble opinion on the Canadian west coast.