Pai Market (Toronto)

Since opening Sukhothai in 2008, Nuit and Jeff Regular have owned or worked with various popular restaurants – all serving good old fashioned Thai food. At their latest venture, PAI Northern Thai Kitchen, they’re doing something different: it’s their first time creating a market area that introduces Toronto to lunch offerings popular in Thailand’s street markets.

After entering PAI, walk towards the back and make a right. The newly expanded area will lead you to separate dining room with grab-and-go counter with seating area serving a variety (generally six choices) of dishes that changes throughout the week. 

There could be curry, rice platters, or a salad … although their salads aren’t some sad leafy green variety. Instead, the laap gai is a hearty concoction of flavourful marinated minced chicken combined with roasted rice for substance. The citrusy dressing still keeps it light, but you don’t be reaching for a snack in a couple of hours.

If you’re lucky enough to see kanon jeen num ngiaw on the menu, make sure it’s one of the items you get ($10 for one choice or $12 for a mixture of two). The tomato broth has just enough heat to leave your tongue tingling but won’t render it numb. Pieces of pork rib are tender and easily pulls off to enhance the noodles. Grab some rice if you can as it does wonders to soak up every last ounce of the hearty soup.

I could do without the slight sweetness that accompanies the soy based broth in the guay jap but the hefty pieces of braised pork belly is pure blubbery goodness. The pork and egg sits atop silky curled noodles that will test your chopstick skills; make sure you grab a spoon!

Meat lovers will want a box of the Northern platter, which includes chunks of flavourful lean sausages that incorporates a Thai flair (could be some lemongrass added into the meat?). Also accompanying the sticky rice are crispy fried pork and pork rinds as well. Adding a dollop of the thick green chili relish on the side helps cut through the greasiness, but watch out it has some spice to it!

After lunch, feel free to peruse the display tables in the corner hawking a variety of unique Thai fruits, vegetables, spices, and ingredients. A juicy sweet mango (great for a dessert) or a bottle of their house made chili oil can help you replicate the Thai taste at home.

The PAI Market couldn’t have arrived at a better time, helping lunch diners combat the upcoming cold Toronto fall and winter with warm hearty dishes and heavenly scents emitted from slow cooked food. Just for a brief moment, that lunch hour, I’ll be transported away from Toronto to a sunny street market in Thailand.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 18 Duncan Street

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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