I am not very clear on what the situation is with Thai food in London. I do know that it’s very popular—there are a number of Thai restaurants around town, and the Thai Square chain is ubiquitous. But it doesn’t appear from a desultory survey of food reviews and blogs as though there are any Thai-owned/operated restaurants that anyone gets excited about. Time Out’s list of the 100 best restaurants in London, for example, lists a number of South Asian-run South Asian restaurants and Chinese-run Chinese restaurants and even Malaysian-run Malaysian restaurants but the only Thai places that show up on it are a couple of places (Som Saa and The Begging Bowl) which are in the vein of Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok mini-empire in the US—namely, restaurants run by non-Thai chefs who have spent some time traveling in Thailand, researching Thai food and whose restaurants translate that food into forms and spaces favoured by metropolitan (mostly) non-Thai diners who might not otherwise spend a lot of money on Thai food or think of it as hip. I have some thoughts, as you might expect, on this larger phenomenon and even more broadly on the controversies around such approaches to non-Western cuisines and “cultural appropriation” currently raging in the US, but I don’t have time to go into them right now. I do have a review of Smoking Goat, however. Continue reading
Spice is located in Savage, one of Minneapolis’ southern suburbs. And if the prosaic town of Savage can’t quite live up to its name, Spice also fails to deliver on its promise of “[T]he…only authentic Thai Cuisine South of the River”. (I’m not sure, by the way, if the restaurant’s name is just Spice or Spice Thai.) Once upon a time I would not have bothered to eat at a Thai restaurant in the suburbs, but having been pleasantly surprised by Thai Curry House we were optimistic. Well, if recent history has taught us anything it is that optimism leads naturally to dull disappointment. So it was for us at Spice. Our lunch here a few weeks ago was very disappointing. I know I said I’d be changing the focus of my restaurant reviews with a view towards supporting immigrant-run places but I can’t bring myself to say that a place like Spice is better than it is. Continue reading
Living an hour south of the Twin Cities is no fun if you enjoy eating out. We live in a town with two colleges that somehow does not have a single Thai or Vietnamese restaurant—though given the state of our Chinese restaurants and the lone Indian restaurant that’s probably not a bad thing. The only decent food in town, really, is very casual Mexican at El Triunfo and there’s only so many times we can eat there in a month. Things don’t improve very much as you go further north. Not, in fact, until you cross the river into Bloomington: there Grand Szechuan heaves into view. But if you were looking for Thai food it used to be that you’d have to go much further to get anything that even went past passable status.
Our meal in January at Luv2Eat, the Thai restaurant in Hollywood that is currently the favourite of a large subset of the Angeleno foodie set, was so good that it (like Szechuan Impression and Mori) was one of the places we wanted to come back to for sure on this recent trip as well. We wanted to try more of their menu and see how deep their list of hits runs. Well, the meal certainly did not disappoint—everything was very good indeed—but we didn’t find it quite as excellent as our first meal six months ago. Part of this is probably due to the fact that our expectations were very high after that meal and it wasn’t possible for us to be surprised a second time; part of it has to do with the fact that a couple of our dishes were served somewhat toned down. At any rate, I’d still recommend Luv2Eat to anyone looking for excellent Thai food in Los Angeles, but perhaps not quite as breathlessly as I did in January. Continue reading
Though I am currently in Delhi I still have a couple of Los Angeles meal reports in hand and so I’m going to sandwich them around another Delhi report this week before turning to Delhi and then Hong Kong reports in the next couple of weeks. First up is a brief writeup of two meals at Lacha Somtum, eaten a few months apart. The first one was eaten last summer but by the time I got around to starting to write it up it was so far in the rear-view mirror that I decided to wait till the next trip to eat there again and post on more of the menu. That time is now. There were just the two of us at the first meal (a lunch), and we kept it light on account of needing to board a flight very soon after; at the second meal (a dinner) we were joined by Sku and family and we got a lot more stuff. Both meals were quite good. Continue reading
As I’ve noted on multiple occasions, Los Angeles almost certainly has the best Thai food in the United States. Las Vegas may have Lotus of Siam and Portland may have Pok Pok, but Los Angeles has Thai Town with its seemingly endless series of holes in the wall on Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. Yes, LA has seen a couple of trendier places open in the last year or so in Night+Market (and it’s spinoff, Song) and more recently two outposts of Andy Ricker’s burgeoning Pok Pok empire (which have failed to set the town on fire so far), but it’s to old Thai Town you must go to experience the breadth of what LA has to offer. From Jitlada‘s legendary and expansive southern Thai menu to more abbreviated regional proffers at Pailin or Lacha Somtum, from boat noodles at Sapp to Muslim dishes at Kruang Tedd, Thai Town has enough to keep both the specialist and the generalist happy. Continue reading
When I first started reviewing Twin Cities restaurants a snarky friend who lives on a coast cracked that it wouldn’t be long before I’d find myself reviewing marginal places in the suburbs. Well, fuck you, man, that’s not what’s happening here. There are still plenty of places in the Twin Cities I’m interested in reviewing; it’s just that I want to take a wider look at the Asian food scene here, especially the places a bit closer to us. I’m on record as saying that On’s Kitchen and Bangkok Thai Deli are the only Thai places in the area worth talking about but if we can find at least a couple of places within easier reach that aren’t totally heinous then that’s something. Well, I guess this might be it. Sort of. What we ate ranged from the unacceptable to the just about acceptable, but more was in the acceptable end of the spectrum than I feared would be the case when friends invited us to join us there this past weekend. Continue reading
Following my mega Grand Szechuan round-up from last week, here is a report on a collection of meals eaten at Bangkok Thai Deli at various points in 2015 as well. In the past I’ve described Bangkok Thai Deli as being alongside On’s Kitchen at the top of the Twin Cities’ somewhat meager Thai scene. Based on our meals this year, I am sorry to say that I think it has dropped quite clearly to the second position. While we’ve eaten some very tasty things there, there’s been a lot of inconsistency and even some meals that were somewhat blah on the whole. We’ve still eaten there more than at On’s because we only get up to the Cities on the weekends and On’s is closed on Sundays, which puts it at a bit of a disadvantage vis a vis our wallets. As with my last Grand Szechuan post, what follows is a slideshow, with descriptions, of dishes that were (mostly) not reported on in my previous reviews (here and here).
I ate at Isaan Station twice on our last trip to Los Angeles. On neither occasion was I accompanied by the missus and kids and I was thus resolved that we would go back together on this trip (it also helps that Isaan Station is in Koreatown and not Thai Town). While they do not have the dish that the boys are guaranteed to eat (chicken/pork satays) I knew they (and the missus) would love their wondrous grilled chicken and/or any of the other grilled meats; and that the missus would, at a minimum, also love whichever earthy, spicy soup we got. So it proved to be.
No, On’s Kitchen hasn’t opened a second location: this is my second review of On’s Kitchen. It’s not the only time we’ve eaten there since the first review, it’s only the second review I’ve gotten around to writing; and, in fact, it’s a compendium of our two most recent meals there. In the time since the first review—way back in late 2013 when I’d first started to post restaurant write-ups on the blog—I’ve covered a number of the other Thai places that get attention from Twin Cities foodies and food media and have confirmed what everyone knows to be true: at the top are On’s Kitchen and Bangkok Thai Deli and everyone else is well below that. What not everyone wants to say, however, is that even the better places below them are not even really in the same weight division. But rather than dwell on the shortcomings of the rest of the scene, I’ll note once again how lucky we are, in a region without a large Thai population, to have two Thai restaurants that offer up very good renditions of more than your standard-issue Thai restaurant fare, and where it is possible to get even the standard-issue fare cooked at a high level and unsweetened or otherwise watered down. Continue reading
Karta Thai was recommended to me in a Chowhound discussion on Thai Food in the Twin Cities. The proposition advanced by some (and supported by me) and argued by others there was that most Thai restaurants in the area continue to suffer from the “too sweet” malady. My sub-argument was that outside of Bangkok Thai Deli and On’s Kitchen in St. Paul Thai food in the Twin Cities is also pedestrian at best. Since then we’ve eaten at Sen Yai Sen Lek, which I’d put just above pedestrian (though much better than the likes of Supatra). Karta Thai it was suggested was also a dependable place, offering solid execution of a standard menu. As we’re often in the neighbourhood for food shopping, and as solidly executed Thai food is something we’re always happy to eat, we stopped in some weeks ago. Herewith the report. Continue reading
It feels like only yesterday that we returned from our most recent trip to LA. Okay, so it feels like almost two and a half months, which is what it’s been. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get around to finishing up posting write-ups of our meals but this twofer featuring two Thai Town mainstays is the last one. It actually features the first meal we ate out on this trip—at Crispy Pork Gang & Grill. It’s fitting that the last meal report should be of two Thai meals as on this trip it was Thai food that we ate out the most.
Crispy Pork Gang & Grill is part of the mega-cluster of restaurants in the strip mall on Hollywood Blvd. off Harvard (its immediate neighbours include the venerable Ruen Pair, Red Corner Asia and Pa Ord 3) and is the more downmarket of the two. It is open 24 hours, has minimal atmosphere and functional service. The food, however, is pretty good (if not as good as it once was). Their calling card, as you might expect from their name is their crispy pork which can be gotten with a number of dishes, but that’s not all they’re good at. Continue reading
Access to great Thai food is one of the culinary highlights of our trips to Los Angeles. And while Thai Town is not the longest hop from our base at my mother-in-law’s place in Koreatown, and while there are so many excellent options to choose from there, it was very good to hear that there was now a Thai restaurant in Koreatown as well that was receiving strong reviews: Isaan Station. I first heard of it from Sku and then saw a number of promising references on Chowhound and elsewhere.
Isaan Station’s menu is focussed, as you might expect from the name, on food from Isaan, the northeastern Thai region abutting Laos and Cambodia. The region’s cuisine is renowned for its heat, pungency and sourness and has more in common with Lao cuisine than with the central Thai cuisine most familiar from restaurants outside Thailand. Well, you could have found out as much for yourselves from a simple Wikipedia lookup—I don’t want to pretend to be an expert for I am not.
After our decent but not particularly special meal at Sen Yai Sen Lek we were left with a hankering for some better Thai food. So when we found ourselves heading to the Children’s Museum in Saint Paul a few Sundays ago we followed that visit with a return to Bangkok Thai Deli for lunch (see here for my writeup of a previous meal there). On’s Kitchen is closed on Sundays or else we would have gone there, but really there’s not so very much separating On’s and Bangkok Thai Deli these days. Well, there is the fact that Bangkok Thai Deli is usually crammed for Sunday lunch which means the likelihood of both a wait and fairly spotty service, both of which we encountered. Continue reading