Showing posts with label Khao soi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Khao soi. Show all posts

Jatujak Thai Cuisine (Toronto)


Jatujak Thai Cuisine is quickly becoming a chain of restaurants serving cheap-and-cheerful Thai food in the Toronto suburbs. After seeing so many of their dishes on Instagram and finding positive Google/Yelp reviews to back up the pretty pics, I decided to head north to their outpost located on Steeles a stone’s throw from Scarborough. From the outside, the storefront looks like any other plaza establishment, but once you enter, the dining room is surprisingly spacious and modern.  

Order a lunch special and they’ll arrive in no time – sometimes a worrying sign of premade food that just sits around and is assembled to order. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with the pad Thai ($8.95). The heap of brown noodles studded with chicken, onions, and bean sprouts didn’t look like much, but once I had a forkful the seemingly too-wet noodles was the perfect consistency and the sweet flavours nicely balanced by the sour and savoury elements. While I couldn’t smell much wok hay when the dish was presented, the pad Thai did have a mellow smoky element that briefly peaks out while being consumed.

I’d skip the chicken green curry ($8.95), it’s run-of-the-mill and a tad sweet for my taste for something that has two chilies listed beside it on the menu. Truth be told, I was probably still a little salty from hearing that the steamed fish curry wasn’t available, something I really had my heart set on.

Jatujak’s beef khao soi ($15.95) could also use a kick of heat to really push the bowl to the next level. Still, it was a tasty dish with the creamy curry broth incorporating a hint of citrus. The combination of silky egg noodles with crispy ones were also on-point with equal amounts of both textures. There were also tons of brisket in the bowl, so this is a great choice for those who really want their protein.

Until my work-from-home schedule ends, and I re-join the downtown rat race, I’m glad to have found Jatujak who will satisfy my Thai cravings until I can taste Chef Nuit’s creations again. I guess their affordable price points, large portions, and ease of getting a table also doesn’t hurt either. If only they had the steamed fish curry – one day, you will get into my belly.


Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5651 Steeles Ave East


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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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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CLOSED: Mango Tree Thai Fusion & Sports Bar (Markham)

Thank you to Parv.ca for a number of these photos
If you visit Mango Tree Thai Fusion & Sports Bar expecting authentic Thai food, you may leave disappointed. Really, their name should be a dead giveaway there’ll be a deviation: there’s a fusion element and Thai restaurants aren’t known to be sports bars. Once you get off the elevators, on the second floor of the commercial building, and walk into the huge dark space, you know authenticity doesn’t matter. With the black walls, colourful mural, large television screen, and huge bar, it seems like it’ll will morph into a club at any moment.


There are certainly “sports bar” offerings on the menu such as obligatory fried chicken wings ($13 a pound) or burger sliders ($12) that get a Thai twist with the tamarind sauce used on them.

Some dishes tread the line between bar and Thai food. The MT spring rolls ($10) filled with a ground beef and pork mixture dotted with finely chopped carrots, onions, and coriander, the denser filling reminding me of Filipino lumpias. Or the coconut milk fried shrimp ($15) where you could really taste the coconut, but the cream they dip the shrimp into before coating the shrimp could be thinned  as the crust was a tad thick. In both instances, the filling and batter would benefit from more seasoning as by themselves the finger foods were plain, but improved with sauce. 


Then, there are dishes you’d expect from a Thai restaurant. The starter tom yum soup ($6) was a large bowl of hot and sour broth teeming with lemongrass and other aromatics. It’s certainly spicy, but not overwhelmingly; the heat balanced off with vegetables like bean sprouts that also add a bit of crunch. Opt for the vegetarian version, as the deep fried tofu is great for soaking up the spicy soup.


The mango salad ($9) takes relatively sweet green mangoes and tosses it in a light shrimp paste for a savoury element. I enjoyed the fried shallots garnishing the salad, which adds a nice earthy crunch.


Of all the mains, the chicken green curry ($14) was perhaps the most authentic tasting and our favourite main of the evening. As a warning, Mango Tree uses dark meat giving the dish a gamier taste. It also contains chunks of eggplant (great for soaking up the liquid) and peppers. If you like it spicier, dig to the bottom as the chopped pepper pieces seems to sink to the bottom of the rich coconut curry.


My friend’s description of Mango Tree is great: it’s like a HK-style Thai restaurant (similar to HK-style Western cafes or cha chan tangs). Essentially, they are Thai dishes but with a Chinese influence. For example, the khao soi ($14) switches out the spicy yellow broth for a milder soup base that has a heavier coconut element. Moreover, the egg noodles are replaced with flat chewy ones that almost have a hand-pulled quality to it. 



To cap the bowl off, a fried pineapple ring that gives the noodles a sweet element. I would have preferred the khao soi spicier; but then the menu, which showed no chili peppers beside the name, was accurately depicting the dish. In retrospect, had I known I would have asked for it to be made at the spicy level - Mango Tree offers customization options for most mains where you choose the protein as well as the spiciness level.

The MT boneless pork chop ($20) didn’t have much of the lemongrass and garlic flavours I expected based on the menu’s description. Rather, the sweet tamarind barbeque sauce flavour was prevalent and sparked the whole HK-style Thai café discussion to begin with – it had that thick sweet and sour sauce flair that’s not unlike the Cantonese style pork chops (except less sugary). Personally, I’d prefer the pork chop thinner to allow the marinate to permeate the meat more and the barbeque glaze toned down to let some of the herb’s flavour shine through.


No meal should end without an order of the Mango Tree sticky rice ($11). It takes time to prepare but the wait is worth it as the sticky rice arrives warm and when combined with cool sweet mangoes and thick coconut cream, I felt momentarily transported to Thailand. Had I known how delicious the dessert would be, I’d skip the appetizers and have an entire order of the sticky rice to end.


Kevin, co-owner of Mango Tree, explains they wanted the restaurant to be different. Of course, they serve food. But, it’s more than that. They want a space where people can visit, hang out, and enjoy each other’s company. Indeed, that seemed to ring true for our visit; while the food arrived quickly, we were left with our mains well after the forks went down so we could just relax and lounge.

We took that opportunity to sip on cocktails, my mango Bellini ($10) went down so easily, a concoction of mango puree with soda water, balanced out with citrus but so fruity that the rum melts away. For a unique drink, the Phulay sunset ($11) sounds like a tropical explosion of orange and pineapple juice with coconut cream, but the addition of ginger gives the cocktail an interesting zip.


The weekend crowd was so varied from a boisterous table of women celebrating an occasion, families, couples, to other groups of friends catching up. A lot of tables stayed for a long time, ordering more bites and drinks to keep the night going. Just like Mango Tree intended.

Overall mark - 7 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: Markham, Canada
 Address: 7850 Woodbine Avenue (2nd floor)
 

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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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Sala Modern Thai (Toronto)


With the word Modern in their name, Sala Modern Thai had me wondering what would be the evolutionary steps in their dishes. Perhaps they’d replace the traditional rice noodles in pad Thai with fresh made pasta? Maybe the menu would incorporate some sort of fusion concept mixing Thai cuisine with other countries?

Turns out, neither seemed true; their dishes were the staples gracing the Toronto Thai restaurant menus for years. In fact, if anything, they even incorporated further elements of traditional Thai touches like with their Bangkok pad Thai.

When my husband did an ex-pat stint in China, one of his favourite restaurants was owned by a Thai couple who made the “best pad Thai”, in his opinion. He fondly remembered the thin omelette that encapsulated the noodles, a dish he never found in Toronto until seeing a picture of Sala Modern Thai – really the sole catalyst for our visit.


The chicken version ($13) arrives covered in a thin crepe that’s more flour than egg; upon breaking through you’re greeted with a pad Thai made from chewy vermicelli noodles (as opposed to the typical thin rice noodles) and a sweet and sour sauce that’s one of the best I’ve heard had – it’s not overwhelming sweet or sour and there’s no tell-tale hint of red indicating ketchup was used in lieu of tamarind.


True to their name, the fresh rolls ($6) are made-to-order as the rice paper is soft, chewy, and lightly warmed. With a simple vegetable and tofu stuffing, you get the contrasting textures of crunchy and soft ingredients, with the Thai basil adding a refreshing essence. On the side, a sweet chili tamarind dipping sauce and a small salad of lettuce tossed in, of all things, ranch dressing.


Although I’d never volunteer to try suicide wings, I’m also not a wuss when it comes to chili heat. Hence, we opted for the “spicy” version (one step down from “Thai spicy”) of the kuaytiaw tom yum with chicken ($11.50). Wow, what a humbling experience! There was such a kick to the tom yum broth, even with the rice noodles, that every second bite had me reaching for a cooling drink.


The broth is rich and thick, filled with lemon grass and a shrimp flavours (aside from all the chili). I do wish they used a bigger bowl as ours was so packed with noodles that the soup became more of a sauce than something you can spoon and actually drink.

If you’re going to try anything spicy, do yourself a favour and order one of their iced teas. The Thai matcha iced green tea ($5) is the traditional milk-based tea with a strong matcha essence added to make it less sweet and milky. As an aside, Sala needs to do a better job at ensuring their pricing matches up, this one item was listed differently on three places: menu at restaurant ($4), actual charge on bill ($5), and menu on their website ($6).

Sala Modern Thai’s beef khao soi ($13) is fantastic. Normally, the coconut milk mixed into the yellow curry broth is a tad strong for me, at Sala it’s balanced so the broth stays savoury while still feeling thick and rich. The soup sticks wonderfully to all the crevices of the flat egg noodles and the crispy noodles add a bit of crunch against the otherwise soft dish. Only two things could be improved with the khao soi: firstly, the beef was overcooked and tasteless (tofu may be a better protein); and the so called “soft” boiled egg arrived hard boiled and dry.


So what exactly is modern Thai? Interested, I turned to the internet and found a Paste Bangkok post, where Chef Jason Bailey explains that modern Thai is not only about using non-traditional ingredients but also incorporating cooking equipment that differs from the traditional coals and wok (such as an oven or slow cooker). The dishes must also have intense flavours where you really get a punch of hot, sour, sweet, savoury, or bitterness. So as it turns out, maybe all along, I’ve already been eating modern Thai.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1262 Danforth Avenue

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Sala Modern Thai Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pai Northern Thai Kitchen (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 18 Duncan Street
Website: http://www.paitoronto.com/
Type of Meal: Dinner



When Janet Zuccarini and Jeff Regular gets behind the kitchen and cooks Thai, people follow. I’ve been trying to get a taste of their original creations for years. From Khao San Road to Sukho Thai, it seems that every time I finally make it into the restaurant, they sneak away to open yet another place. This time I did it – I’ve eaten at Pai while the Regulars (as they are referred to by media) are still in power.

Since Khao San Road, they have realized that there is nothing wrong with taking reservations. As a person who hates waiting in lines, I’m thankful for that. And trust me, you’ll want reservations, as even visiting on a weeknight Pai was packed.

The set-up looks familiar – simple wooden tables packed close together in a long narrow restaurant. At Pai, there are a couple of cool features including a tatami sitting area and a rotating wooden barrel at the bar. Their menu still revolves around starchy Thai comfort foods, but sadly my beloved garlic shrimp is nowhere to be found.

On this visit, I took the advice of the waitress and ordered gaeng kiaw wan ($15). The green curry is served in a coconut, with an extra portion in a bowl on the side. Alas, other than being decorative the coconut doesn’t add much (I tried scraping the sides for some coconut meat but there was none to be found), but it sure does look nice.


The curry is chocked full of tender chicken slices, bamboo shoots and bell peppers, with basil and kaffir lime leaves to provide more flavour. To be safe, I went with a medium level of spiciness, so there was a bit of heat. But, the slightly sweet coconut milk was definitely more pronounced. So, I’d likely up it to the “foreigner spicy” level next time.

Keep in mind the spiciness of each dish really differs. My friend ordered her khao soi ($14) “mild” and I really didn’t find a noticeable change in heat between her noodle dish and my curry. I’ve had this egg noodles in golden curry dish at Sukho Thai and they taste similar. But, at Pai the beef arrives in much larger chunks – not good or bad but requires the eater to try to break it up with chopsticks.


Although I didn’t try it, the vegetarian pad thai ($14) my friend had smelled very good.


As a warning, food service is slow – so, you’ll likely not want to show up starving. The music is also much too loud, so I’d suggest sticking with a table of four or less if you want a chance of having a conversation. But, I’m glad for the opportunity to eat at a place Janet and Jeff are still managing; their creations do not disappoint. Well, may if Pai can add the crispy garlic shrimp to their menu… than it’d be even better.


Overall mark - 8 out of 10


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!

Pai Northern Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon


SukhoThai (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 52A Wellington Street East
Website: http://www.sukhothaifood.ca/
Type of Meal: Dinner



Having heard much about Sukho Thai, when they opened the new Wellington location (accepting reservations), I rounded up a friend to try their Thai classics. Housed in the former Hernandos Hideaway, the second restaurant is much larger and during our visit scored a table on the raised level right by the window – great for people watching!  SukhoThai was founded by the husband-and-wife duo that later started Khao San Road (also since departed) and is now being run by the husband’s parents.


The garlic shrimp ($10) is incredible and I highly recommend if you ever visit. Aside from the flavourful breading (garlicky with a slight sweetness) and crisp crunch, the shrimp itself is just cooked so well.  You have to taste it as it’s hard to describe, something about the texture is how I imagine all fried shrimp should taste like.

SukhoThai offers two types of pad thai, we went with the “SukhoThai” version ($14). The noodles were not overly saucy (how I enjoy it) and cooked well allowing them to retain a slight springiness. But, something about the sauce’s flavours weren’t for me – too sour and nutty. Possibly, it’s the tamarind paste base they use, which adds a tang that ruins the pad thai. A plus is that the tamarind does give the dish a wonderful dark brown colour without having to resort to using fake colouring.

Since we’ve never tried the gaeng masaman curry ($12) we felt it was an opportunity to expand our experience with Thai cuisine.  Unlike the typical red, green and yellow curries, this has a citrus tang to it from the lemongrass.  Although there’s still a hint of coconut milk this becomes secondary to the spiciness and sourness and makes it lighter tasting.  The ingredients are simple with just the protein (in our case chicken), potatoes and the sauce.

Returning one day for lunch, I tried their khao soi ($13 at lunch, $14 at dinner) intrigued by the promise of curry and noodles. The bowl was beautifully presented with fried crispy noodles on top, which when broken up and mixed into the curry sauce added a great contrasting crunch against the soft noodles.



Having gotten the “spicy” choice, it indeed had heat and kick to it – this dish would be great at warming you up during the cooler months. The soup was a delicious mix of curry, chili oil, coconut milk and something nutty giving it a great depth of flavour. Cubes of soft beef brisket were mixed throughout with the thick egg noodles.  This would be a dish I’d order again.

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy all the “new” dishes I’ve tried and next time will go back to the regular pad thai and green curry combo.  But, I always welcome the opportunity to expand my experience – some dishes that I haven’t even tried while travelling to Thailand.  Often, I believe our tastes have become accustomed to a safer and more “Westernized” version of the cuisine so I appreciate SukhoThai’s willingness to make us push past this.  If you’re looking for a non-conventional take on Thai dishes, this is the place for you.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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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!



Sukho Thai on Urbanspoon