a few nights ago, some friends took me to thai spice, on devon. i was excited, since i don't get to explore devon that often; i live near logan square and don't have a car, which makes it tough. [disclaimer: i am a thai FREAK. when i am exploring a new city, the first thing i ask is: where's the great thai place?? when i lived in sydney, i ate thai six times a week for five months, and never got sick of it.] i'll describe the dishes we ordered at thai spice, but first, a word about the place itself, and their current offering of special dishes.
thai spice is run by this guy anthony, who seems to take great pleasure in having long conversations with his customers about food, thailand, and life. his wife cooks everything in the back room using her great-grandmother's recipes, which i believe he said are a southern style of thai. he also told us that for the next few months or so, they're running different specials, putting a new "exotic" dish on special for several dollars cheaper, hopefully allowing their regular customers to try some new flavours.
i thought that was a neat idea, so in addition to our pot stickers, spring rolls, and fried tofu, we also ordered wednesday's special. i forget the name of it, but it was a spongy fish cake, unlike anything i've ever really had before. the flavour was good, some scallions were cooked into it, but the chewy spongy texture was what really hooked me.
as for the other appitizers: the spring rolls were good, but my faves are still at thai eatery on western. the fried tofu was good and puffy (i hate it when there's no middle tofu part, just skinny fried wedges) and the sauce had a good balance of sweetness and kick to it. the best appitizer, however, was the vegetable pot stickers, a perfect antithesis to the heavy greasy porky chinese-style pot stickers that i don't really like. thai spice's pot stickers were fluffy in the middle, with a discernable mix of fresh vegetables in them, and perfectly crispy on the outside.
now, the main dishes. laad nar (or any of its various spellings) is my fave thai entree; i love the wide rice noodles and the gravy, plus broccoli rocks. however, i have been in a crazy soup mood this week (must be the snow, i had gumbo three days in a row for lunch), so i ordered a bowl of tom yum kai. it arrived steaming, the top covered in bobbing white mushrooms, which made me smile because i have an aversion to straw mushrooms. i ordered it with tofu instead of chicken, and since vegetable broth was used, my vegetarian friends could share it. my only complaint would be that it wasn't quite spicy enough, but any more hot might have been uncomfortable. the balance of lemon grass, lime, cilantro and chili was just right, and i enjoyed it very much.
luckily for me, one of my friends ordered the laad nar, so i got to try it too. the brown sauce was a good consistency: thick, but not snot-like, with lots and lots of very fresh not overcooked broccoli. their implementation of tofu was ok, long skinny strips, not huge enough for mouthfuls or anything. the only thing about it that i disagreed with was that they fried their wide rice noodles; if i were to order the dish, i'd ask for them steamed.
overall, thai spice was a very pleasant experience. it's a small place, maybe eight or ten tables total, a couple of which are on the ground, with cushions. i love eating with my shoes off. i definitely would like to go back and explore more of the menu, and take advantage of some specials offered that aren't regular dishes. oh, and it's byob. wish i could have tried the iced coffee or tea, but too much caffeine at night means i can't sleep. maybe next time i'll go earlier.
1320 w. devon ave.
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