I have spilled ink before on this blog about the virtues of Maenam, Kitsilano’s hip, upscale Thai restaurant, and vowed to one day take in their Royal Thai tasting menu. It didn’t take long for dreams to come true, and just a couple months after my first visit I returned with my dad and my wife for some serious event eating.
The menu offers that the tasting menu comprises of 9 dishes served family style, but our meal boasted more like 11 or 12, with a mix of menu items and daily creations. The first of three waves consisted of appetizers, which we paired with some Maenam’s delicious Thai-infused cocktails, including a margarita-style Tequila-based drink and a take on a Boston sour, both brightened by ingredients like lime, galangal, and basil.
The initial offering consisted of chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce, fried fern leaf, pork crackling, crispy soft-shell crab and some fried oysters with nahm jim sauce. Where to begin? Everything was really bold and delicious, but the highlights were without a doubt the crab and the oysters. The nahm jim is a spicy mix of fish sauce, chilies, lime and sugar, which made the perfectly-cooked oysters just explode in the mouth. And as for the crab, I think I would have paid a hundred bucks to just eat those by the bucket-full until I could no longer stand.
This first course was also accompanied by some tom sap gai, a “north-east style hot and sour soup with roast chicken,” which was a very savoury and comforting addition.
The second course was really surprising. A bowl of mussels is always a welcome touch, particularly with more nahm jim for dipping and a really savoury broth, but it was the sausage salad that blew our minds. I don’t mind indulging in sin when dining out, but I doubt there’s any way even I would have read “sausage salad” on the menu and thought to order it. It turned out to be the stand-out of the night. The mix of textures, between the sausage, fresh ingredients and the crispy fried bits of onion was incredible, as was the perfectly Thai dressing, combining the sweet, savoury, sour and spicy in absolute harmony.
The final course consisted of four main dishes: a phanaeng curry with braised beef, a fresh salad of tuna and papaya, the restaurant’s signature 8-spice lingcod, and some fried pork jowl with baby corn and basil. It was nice having the four dishes served together because they really complimented each other: the curry was rich, the salad bright and sour, the fish sticky and sweet, and the pork spiced with whole peppercorns. Of the four, it would be hard to pick a favourite, but the pork was the most surprisingly complex. By this point in the meal though, you’ve been hit with so many fireworks that it all becomes a mess of colour and bliss.
And here I am after all the carnage. We could do nothing but scoff at the dessert menu. As it was, walking to the car was a challenge and I had my belt undone well before we got home. This was one for the record books.