Last week I met up with Kim from I’m Only Here for the Food! again for lunch, along with a couple of my other friends.
We were aiming to try another Thai place that would be more authentic than others in Vancouver, so we went to the recently opened Tangthai Cuisine of Thailand restaurant on Robson Street (near Denman) – it opened toward the end of December 2009 (note that there is another location on West Broadway between Granville and Burrard).
I was excited to peruse through the thick menu, and wanted to see if particular dishes that are my standard favourites were available. Again, we decided to share our food and each picked one dish, plus an appy to start.
Another early indicator of food to come is to try the Thai Iced Tea – so of course I had to order one of those as well. The menu said it came with whipping cream, and at first that threw me a bit since what came to mind was a pile of whipped cream on top. When I realized that it was just cream that would be mixed in, I got it as is (alternatively, it can be served with condensed milk). This version of the drink did turn out to be quite a bit more rich than I was expecting – they really must’ve gone with the full on 30% milk fat cream! I probably wouldn’t order it again there, as I had to slow down so as not to feel like I’d be drinking myself too full before the food came, and I was also worrying about what could potentially happen to my stomach later on, like it did when I went to Kintaro for ramen a couple of months back.
Shortly afterward, our stuffed chicken wings showed up (Peek Kai Yud Sai). These were filled with mung bean vermicelli noodles, shitake mushrooms, and some veggies. The wings themselves were quite a bit smaller than I was expecting them to be when we ordered them, as I wondered how there would be enough room to actually fill them with anything. They were served with the traditional Thai sweet chili sauce for chicken that you often see at restaurants with this type of cuisine. I found the wings to be a bit bland – they could’ve had a bit more kick to them in terms of spice, or pepper (as Kim pointed out). They also were less crunchy than I expected them to be.
After this, our main dishes started to roll in quite quickly. The Larb Moo, or salad with ground pork, mint leaves, tomatoes, red onions, lemongrass and lime came up next. Generally, this is served cold, and I actually prefer it with chicken and / or turkey rather than pork, and I always have to eat it with rice. It was surprising for me to see only the one meat option on the menu, especially since it wasn’t just chicken, which I thought would be more traditional and popular. Again, I still have to say I prefer my home-made version of larb. However, when it came to the meal, this was my top pick – it had a fair bit of flavour (nothing that a little prig nam pla – fish sauce and chilies – couldn’t help).
At this point, we asked to make sure our rice would come together with the salad. We ordered multiple servings of the coconut rice. While I prefer plain steamed jasmine rice, it was nice for a change in terms of having something more fragrant as our staple. The aroma of the coconut was stronger than I’ve had at other places – in a good way!
Here is when everything else came all at once. My second favourite lunch item that we tried was the lemongrass beef stirfry (or Nua Pad Takhai). This had white onion, cilantro, and green peppers, in a sauce with plenty of lemongrass, and what may have been oyster sauce to give it the thick salty taste. This was quite flavourful, and the only reason I didn’t like it more is that it almost had a bit too much sauce over the meat itself. However, while a lot of the other food items could’ve used more punch, this one had a stronger and more rich zest to it.
One dish that I love to have often – be it home-cooked or at a Thai restaurant – is the Pad Kee Mao (or Spicy Drunken Noodle). Again, this noodle dish could’ve had a bit more flavour to it, and I had to add quite a bit of the prig nam pla to get it closer to how I wanted it. This version had green beans, onions, basil leaves, bamboo shoots (which I’m not a huge fan of), baby corn, mushrooms, shrimp and chicken (the menu also said squid, but I don’t think I found any). To me, the green beans were the best part – they were cooked just right, and were still slightly crisp. My favourite version of this dish still has to be the one they serve at Sala Thai.
The Green Curry Chicken also needed a bit more more oomph. The sauce could’ve been a bit thicker, but again, curry in general is just not one of my preferences. It seems like so many people love Thai curries of all sorts, but I do have to admit that I’m kind of sick of them, and find that there are so many more wonderful types of dishes to experiment with instead. And again, nothing can beat my mother’s curries – any of them.
After my meal was over, I went to the ladies room and my curiosity got the best of me once I noticed a staircase to the back when we first arrived. I asked to take a peek, and went up to see another dining area upstairs that would likely be good to book out for a private event. There was also a large flatscreen television to one side, and I’m sure they’ll be renting it out for use during the Olympics.
All in all, I did find the food at Tangthai to be more authentic than many other places in Vancouver (probably a result of the fact there were actually some Thai staff). I just found that each dish could’ve been a bit too bland to be able to really appreciate each item and enjoy it in all it’s glory. The service was friendly, and the atmosphere was good – there were funky lights and traditional decor throughout the restaurant – but the food itself need to be taken up a notch.
As of today, I am still on that quest for some really flavourful, authentic Thai food. If you know of anything I should try out, please do let me know in the comments!