Sherman's Food Adventures: Urban Thai

Urban Thai

Way back when we used to live in Yaletown, it was rather convenient to dine out in Downtown Vancouver.  One of places we had visited on a number of occasions was Urban Thai Bistro.  They are no longer located in Yaletown and in fact, have opened up shop on Dunbar with a much smaller footprint.  I was invited to check the place out along with some other foodies.  The biggest takeaway from this meal was that the food is much improved upon the times I went in the past.

To kick things off, we were served the Chili Basil Chicken Wings.  Oh this was a great way to start the meal.  Each mid-wing was cooked beautifully with a nice lacquered exterior that was caramelized and aromatic.  Lots of sweetness and spice going on with the essence of fried basil.  Loved that the skin was properly rendered with a slight crispiness.  Beyond the skin, the meat underneath was juicy and well-marinated.

Sporting plenty of meat, the BBQ Pork Cheek Salad was probably my favourite dish of the meal.  It featured tender and fatty strips of pork cheek that exhibited the classic bounce texture.  Typically, this cut of meat can be a touch porky due to the fat content, but they were grilled enough that the fats were rendered and exhibited plenty of caramelization.  Combined with the tangy and sweet tamarind sauce, the salad ate with brightness.

Off to some noodle items, we tried the Prawn Laksa with fish balls, fried fish cake, tofu, egg, bean sprouts and egg noodles.  I thought this was quite solid with a fragrant broth that was slightly creamy and coconutty.  It did have a bit of brininess as well as enough spice for impact.  The noodles were al dente and plentiful.  The usual proteins were there and believe it or not, I appreciated the not overcooked egg (many places mess this up).

Our next noodle was the Beef Brisket Noodle Soup.  This was a comforting dish where the flavours were familiar.  The five spice broth was aromatic with licorice and meaty notes (from the brisket juices and fat).  It had the slight sweetness of daikon in the background as well.  As you can see, this was made with wide flat rice noodles, so in Cantonese, this is the classic Ngau Lam Hor Fun.  In addition to the fatty and tender brisket, there was also some beef meatballs.

Another delicious offering was the Matsaman Curry Rack of Lamb.  These meaty lamb lollipops were marinated perfectly where the meat was tender and moist.  They were seared just enough that they were cooked to medium and the outside was caramelized and slightly smoky.  The curry was sweet with only the slightest of heat.  It was a nice compliment to the mild-tasting lamb.  Served on the side was an extra amount of curry for rice.

Now if this next dish looks suspiciously like Hainanese Chicken, then you are partially correct.  This was actually Khao Mun Gai, which is the Thai version of this popular dish.  Made famous by the food stall in Portland, this one here sported the same chicken oil rice, deboned chicken and the gingery sweet soy condiment on the side.  This was a pretty generous portion (as with all of the food we had).

Probably the most visually impressive dish was the Jumbo XL Tiger Prawns with garlic sauce.  I kid you not, these prawns were the size of small lobster tails!  These were butterflied and fried expertly.  Barely cooked-through, the meat was tender, bouncy and juicy.  Aromatic with natural sweetness, the prawns were well-matched with the sweet garlic sauce that was quite impactful.  This dish was a real treat.

Lastly, we had the Pad Thai with chicken.  As stated on the menu, it is authentic and I can confirm that it was good.  The tamarind really came through with tang and sweetness.  There was good wok heat where the noodles maintained their chewy texture while still sauced but not wet.  Good caramelization and aromatics too.  This dish actually exemplified the food at Urban Thai.  It is much better than I had remembered and definitely one of the better Thai meals I've had recently, especially for the price.  I would classify Urban Thai as an affordable option considering the astronomical restaurant prices these days.  I will be back.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- On point eats
- Well-portioned
- Well-priced

The Bad:
- Dining room is considerably smaller than before, to keep your group small


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