I’m sure I’ve made such a big deal about how much I love Thai food over the years that I might as well get it tattooed at this point. Authentic Thai cuisine is just the best; I really don’t think any other culinary style better balances the salty, sour, bitter and sweet, and does so with such bold and adventurous flavours. While savage floods kept me from visiting in 2011, I swear I’ll make it there some day soon, and when I do I’m gonna find some old ladies to teach me EVERYTHING.
I’ve eaten all sorts of great Thai in restaurants and my own kitchen, but I’ve never had upscale Thai before, and what better city to find it than my beloved Vancouver. We had some visiting company recently and so for our Main Event Dinner we chose Maenam, Chef Angus An’s Kitsilano hot spot.
It may be a little off-putting when you first walk in to find that most of the servers and diners in the restaurant are white - which is never the best sign in a city with as sizeable and food-obsessed as Vancouver’s Asian population - but don’t let it be a deterrent. This isn’t the secret grimy noodle house with the best $2 dumplings in town, this is haute cuisine drawing from Thailand’s amazing flavour palate.
There couldn’t be a much better way to start a meal than this gin/ginger/grapefruit cocktail and an order of crisp fried oysters with a spicy nahm jim sauce. The cocktail, from Maenam’s small but impressive list, was bright and tart and not-too-sweet, and the fried oysters were a great way to introduce the palate to many of the flavours of the night by way of a familiar and comfortable fry.
Jungle curry with mixed vegetables and tender beef. A nice rich curry with good heat, but certainly the most ordinary dish of the evening.
This is the 8-spice fish, a tender piece of lingcod caramelized in a sweet and spicy tamarind sauce. This was amazing, with perfect accents from the crispy basil leaves and garlic. As you can see the portion sizes are not traditional Thai family-style mounds of food, but pack an amazing amount of flavour, focused and tight.
This was a brilliant squid salad with fresh herbs and mango. Really bright, acidic and delicious, covering every base and having just the right piece of fried tentacle on top.
The final dish was a huge surprise, and it was the evening’s feature dish of sauteed spinach and pork belly. Really savoury with great balance, and the bits of belly were cooked perfectly, which is important. Pork belly that isn’t crispy and rendered is just a pile of fat, which isn’t even appetizing in a guilty way. This was appetizing in every way.
Maenam has a Royal Thai 9-course tasting menu that they offer as well. I’ll let you know how that goes soon…