You'd think right after a tasting at the brand-new Marine Gateway location of Pink Elephant Thai, I wouldn't be up for another tasting at the original Alberni store. Well, I did have some reservations as I really didn't want to eat the same things again. Those concerns were abated when I found out that it was a tasting based on their new Anniversary 5 for $55 menu, where one could chose 2 appies and 3 entrees. We ended up trying all the available options on the menu (with some appies doubled-up in size due to our group size, however, entrees were the actual serving size).
We did end up starting with those appies including the veritable Spring Rolls. These were served hot and stayed hot even after some incessant picture-taking. The exterior was crunchy while not greasy. Inside, the filling was not too dense and adequately seasoned with fish sauce. Next, I dug into the Chicken Satay served with peanut dipping sauce and pickled cucumbers. Although the charring was minimal, there was still caramelization going on. With that being said, I would've liked to see more smoky flavours as well as some crispy bits on the outside. On the inside, the chicken was fairly moist and tender.
One of my favourites was the Thai Style Pork Cheek served with a sweet and spicy dip. Being pork cheek, the dish was already a winner. Add in the fact that they prepared it correctly, the result was buttery slices of pork with a rebound texture. They were well-seasoned on their own as well as having a decent sear on the outside. Another fan favourite were the Thai Shrimp Cakes featuring a sweet and sour sauce. These were fried up with a crispy exterior breading. Similar to the spring rolls, these were not greasy at all. The shrimp mousse on the inside exhibited a nice bounce texture while being well-seasoned.
Something very simple was the Crispy Tofu. These sported medium-firm tofu coated with a crispy breading that was easy on the grease (like everything else so far). Nothing super interesting about them other than being crispy and light. Even the sweet chili sauce was pretty standard. Moving away from the fried and grilled items, we tried the Chicken Larb. This featured tender nuggets of chicken bathed in a spicy and aromatic flavours (onion and lemongrass). There was definite hits of sweetness, acidity from the lime juice, spiciness from the roasted chili and saltiness from the fish sauce.
Not finished with the appies quite yet, we also had the Yum Neau (Beef Salad). This was rather familiar tasting with the base of fish sauce accented by chilis, lime juice and mint. Again, the heat level was noticeable without being overwhelming. I found the beef to be fairly easy to chew despite not being subjected to tenderization (meats in Thai cooking are not prepared such as Cantonese cuisine). In addition to the shrimp cakes, we also got the Fish Cakes which were somewhat similar. Beyond the slightly chewy exterior, the fish mousse rebounded with every bite. There was a natural sweetness combined with a pleasant fishiness and background spice.
I suppose the Tom Yum was our actual last appie (since it is a soup). There were familiar flavours at work here including the tang of lime juice, saltiness from the fish sauce, aromatics from the lemongrass and galangal along with a balanced spiciness. This was an appetizing start to the meal which led us the larger dishes including the Pad Thai. The noodles were chewy and not clumpy with just the right amount of moisture. I found the flavours to be sweet and tangy with all of the usual ingredients present. Personally, I found the dish to be a bit plain and would've like to see a stronger tang along with more spiciness.
Spiciness was not an issue with the Pad Kee Mao though. There was a veritable explosion of flavours from the sweet dark soy, pepper flakes and ample basil. I thought that there was balance as there was a little of everything in there including different textures (crunch from the beans, peppers and white onion). Even the noodles were on point being chewy while not overly clumpy. They used beef in this version and really, there was more of that than noodles (actually, I would've preferred more noodles). With an equal amount of heat, the Chili Fried Rice sported similar ingredients such as peppers, onion and chilis. Hence it was definitely spicy and smoky.
Onto 2 stir-fry dishes, we had the Thai Basil Stir-Fried Beef and the Cashew Nut Stir-Fried Chicken. As expected, the beef wasn't exactly buttery tender. Yet, as I mentioned, that is not how Thai stir-fry meats are prepared. With that being said, the beef was still tender with a certain chewiness. The dish was on the sweeter side with some background spiciness. I would've liked to see more basil in the dish. With almost a similar texture, the chicken was not as chewy while the soft crunch from the cashews was aromatic. I thought this dish was more balanced with hits of sweetness and saltiness from the fish sauce.
Of course we didn't forget about the curries, as we ended up with the red, green and yellow. The Green Curry came with the most common meat used being chicken. It was creamy from the coconut milk, yet at the same time, wasn't thick. There was a noticeable spiciness as well as aromatics and background brininess. As for the Red Curry, it came predictably with beef. For some reason, this was slightly thicker and the sweetness of the sugar was at the forefront. Again, there was a good level of heat (but not as much as the green) to go with the saltiness of the fish sauce.
Completing the trifecta, we had the Yellow Curry with pork. Similar to the red curry, the yellow started off with sweetness, then moving onto some heat and then ending off with the flavour of the various spices in the curry paste. Due to the natural textures of the meat, I liked the use of pork as it was the most tender of the 3. The last dish I'm going to talk about is the Seasonal Vegetables with Oyster Sauce. Yep, it wasn't a complex dish, but it was well-executed with crunchy veggies that weren't over-seasoned. Wok heat was decent as there was only a bit of moisture on the bottom of the plate. So after trying all of the available dishes Pink Thai's anniversary menu, I was pleasantly surprised. Portions were generous, especially for the price. Furthermore, the spice level was definitely more than I was expecting (which I personally like).
*All food and beverages excluding gratuities were complimentary*
- Large portions
- Good default heat level
- Chic dining space
- Some dishes were rather sweet
- Might not satisfy food snobs