Okay, so having spent many Thursday's over the past few months in Lincoln Square I decided to have dinner tonight at Spoon and make yet another attempt to get the semi-mythical "secret menu" and see what the fuss is all about...
So, I sat down and got the regular menu and a new version of the "Chicago Tribune" menu (new from when I was last there as this one did not have prices and had a slightly different mix of dishes than the one last time.
Once again when I asked if there were any other menus, I got the "nope, just these two". I then said "my friends told me there was another menu..." at which point my waitress said "oh" and reached behind the counter and handed me a menu on two pages.
However, this was not the full menu available online - rather it was a 7 item menu, with the second page being a recipe for Poh tak soup...
So, I think there is still yet another super-secret menu that I still can't seem to get from them...
On to the dishes.
I ended ordering the Thai Sausage special and the Pork neck larb. Both "spicy" but I did not ask for "Thai spicy", I like spicy but I also generally prefer a range of flavors vs. full heat.
The larb came first (with sticky rice). It was good, tasty, with likely too much fat to keep my doctor happy, but while I liked it, I also was not blown away by it. Spicy, flavorful, but not a particularly amazing piece of meat or preparation (pieces were very random, cooked in varying ways and while the fat was tasty overall the pork did not have a ton of flavor.
The sausage arrived second, with appolgies. It was good and very generous - quite a large portion. But again, I while I liked it, I was not blown away and don't think I'll be ordering it again. It did have a slightly fermented flavor, lots of herbs, and some garlic. But it was also very dry and very finely ground - not a texture I particularly loved (I tend to prefer coarser sausages, and do tend to prefer the sweeter flavors of chinese sausages).
So, my verdict, good but now having eaten at Spoon on three seperate occasions I have yet to have a single dish that was "mind blowing", when in the neighborhood my first instinct will still be Opart Thai for the Tiger Cry, moo ping, pad thai (no meat prepared spicy), or my new favorite there, chinese sausage salad.
What I enjoy at Opart, and what I found lacking tonight at Spoon, is dishes with a range of flavors - including heat. Both my pork neck larb and the sausage were fairly one-note dishes and did not include much else beyond a few onions in the larb. In contrast almost every dish I order at Opart has a range of flaovrs and ingrediants, and yes, some of these do have sweet flavors along with the heat - and certainly that is part of what I enjoy.
So, I do now admit that the "secret" menu is available, though I still find the ritual of having to ask for it many times frustrating as a customer. I'd still go back to Spoon sometime with people "on the in" but first I'll probably be exporing some of the many other places being reported on here over the past few weeks...
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