*Restaurant is now closed*
"Free Food". That usually gets the attention of most people, especially foodies. Of course, not everyone is game for a comped meal. It may lead to biases or a lack of objectivity since we really did not pay for our food. Obviously, that can be true in some cases. Personally, I've been a bit selective when deciding whether to accept an invite or not. It gets me a bit nervous when a marginally-rated restaurant wants me to try their food and then blog about it. Not that it should matter; but we're only human and one would fell a bit uneasy about blasting a place that just paid for your meal. Ben (Chowtimes) was gracious enough to extend an invitation from Tangthai for a tasting. Joining us were Jenny (My Secret Eden), Kevin (604 Foodtography) and Mijune (Follow Me Foodie).
In all honesty, when I spotted the ratings of Tangthai's Broadway location on Urbanspoon, I was not feeling all that confident about the impending meal. Yet, we were assured that there was no obligation to say nice things. With that in mind, I was just about to leave work from North Delta when Toolman emailed me the bad news... The Alex Fraser Bridge was closed due to an accident. Great. I needed to make it to Downtown in 1 hour and my only hope was either the Massey Tunnel or the Patullo. In a split second decision, I opted for the Patullo even though it would mean backtracking quite a distance. Turns out I was very lucky since the tunnel was backed up quite badly. Good for me, bad for Mijune. She was stuck in the lineup entering the tunnel for a good 30 minutes. This ultimately led to Ben being late as well. We were supposed to start at 5:30; but it was more like 6:30 before we started eating.
We began with the Prawn Skirt which is essentially a spring roll with a whole prawn stuffed inside with pork, crab meat and water chestnut. Not sure if the crab was necessary since it was completely lost, especially since the whole thing was quite peppery. Despite the absence of crab flavour, I did like the spring roll since it was very crispy, not oily and flavourful on its own. Up next were Satay Chicken and Beef. The beef was predictably tougher than the chicken. If you look at the picture, there is an obvious tinge of turmeric on the chicken satay. I know it is an integral part of the satay marinade in addition to ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander; but somehow there was too much of a "curry" taste. However, that wasn't the main issue. The peanut dipping sauce was quite strange. Rather than the usual chunky sweet peanut sauce we were used to, it was more like peanut butter.
We were then served Tom Kha Kai which is a spicy chicken coconut soup. It was indeed a bit spicy with a refreshingly light coconut aroma. Taking a few more sips, there was a discernible flavours such as lemongrass, fish sauce and ginger (which turns out to be galangal). I thought the soup had good balance. Presented beautifully with a hand-carved daikon bird, the Pla Rad Prik (fried whole tilapia) looked impressive; yet I thought the fish was overcooked with the meat being completely dry. Now, I realize this is the way it's supposed to be since some of the bony parts were crispy enough to eat. I guess it is something personally I didn't like. However, I didn't mind the sauce, it was sweet, sour, tart and peppery all at the same time. It went well with the rice.
The next dish, Pla Muk Pad Prik, was a quite interesting. It's essentially a green curry with vermicelli and chicken stuffed squid. Complementing the squid were Kadota figs (we originally couldn't figure out what these were), galangal (thought it was ginger at first) and tiny bitter figs which we thought were peas at first. I'm still not sure if those are figs to tell you the truth. Figs aside, the squid was tender and the green curry was quite spicy with fresh Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves. The next dish was described to me as lemongrass beef or Nua Pad Takhai. Honestly, I didn't taste much in the way of lemongrass here since my mouth was too busy with the flavours from the other dishes. The beef was decently tender and the sauce exhibited a spicy, sweet quality. It was pretty good, I probably wouldn't have ordered it myself though.
Next up was a dish that didn't exist on the menu. I guess it's probably a daily featured dish. Consisting of fried Basa on top of a bed of breaded eggplant, it appeared to be topped with a Massaman curry. I thought the eggplant stole the show. It was perfectly fried being wonderfully crispy while maintaining its integrity. The curry was slightly spicy and sweet. If we didn't have enough food already, the Roast Chicken arrived. On its own, the chicken was nothing really much to look at. In fact, I thought it was a quite dry and overcooked. However, the main event for this dish were the 2 sides of dipping sauce. We tasted the sauce over and over again to get a read on it. After much tasting, we figured it consisted mainly of lime juice, cilantro, chilies, fish sauce, and sugar.
Hey, what's Thai food without Pad Thai? Therefore, it was a given that it would show up eventually. Ben remarked that his Thai friend tried it and hated it. Well, I'm not Thai; but I didn't care for it very much either. I personally thought it lacked enough tamarind for that zing we all look for in Pad Thai. Furthermore, I would've also liked more spice. The lime seemed to help a bit; but there was no saving this bland version. On a positive note, I did like the texture of the noodles, they were slightly chewy. The last hot dish of the meal was something I also wouldn't personally order. The Cashew Chicken was mostly sweet with little in the way of spice. There was nothing inherently wrong with this dish. After all, the veggies were still crisp and there was indeed flavour, albeit mild. But for me, it's something you'd find at a food fair, not a dish that stands out.
As for dessert, we got Tea Pudding and Sweet Tapioca Soup. The pudding was not very sweet; rather being quite aromatic. I found that the flavours developed in stages. At first, it was slightly sweet, then as it melted in my mouth, the tea flavour kicked in. I realize that there should be some salt in the tapioca dessert; but for some reason, it was noticeably salty. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be the case. If it is, someone please correct me. Due to the high salt content, it masked the coconut milk and negated the sweetness; rather than heightening it. Honestly, I thought the food at Tangthai was better than I expected it to be. It was indeed authentic; but I found some of the flavours quite mild. I do realize not everything has to be spicy and they are trying to appeal to a wide range of diners. I would say it is authentic and decent enough for you to check it out since it's certainly better than some other "Thai" restaurants out there.
- It's authentic (owner and staff are all Thai)
- Reasonable prices for what you get
- It's clean
- Flavours could've been even bolder (I guess you could easily ask for this)
- Desserts are a bit weak