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Going for a Thaifecta (TM) [long]

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Going for a Thaifecta (TM) [long]

HungryHoward | May 29, 2003 05:35 PM

My wife was out of town earlier this week on business.

Bad news: She was dearly missed.
Good news: I had my choice of the city's dining establishments to keep me company.

As it ends up, I went for a Thaifecta (TM), hitting three Thai places over the last three days.

MONDAY LUNCH -- SPOON THAI
Given that it was Memorial Day, some of my favorite lunch stops were closed (e.g., Manny's, Hot Doug's, Sweet Maple Cafe, etc.). Where to go? Spoon Thai.

I arrived at 1ish, when I was directed to a table by the window. The place was occupied by about five other parties. I bypassed the lunch special ($4.95 for 1 appetizer and 1 entree) and placed my order:

Tom Yom soup with chicken -- Despite the fact that the temps were hovering in the high 60s, I had to order this wonderful broth elixir. As expected, it was certainly hot -- both in temperature and in sheer heat.

Green Curry with chicken -- Perfectly prepared with quartered pieces of Thai eggplant to accompany a generous serving of chicken. Even after spooning it over my rice, I continued to sift through the dish to see if anything was hiding under the green curry sauce. Unlike many Asian restaurants, the side plate of rice was proportionate to the size of the entree.

TUESDAY DINNER -- THAI STAR CAFE
I left work and walked towards the Chicago red line. Recognizing that the contents in our kitchen at home weren't too tempting, I veered south on State towards Whole Foods. In hindsight, I wish I continued towards my initial destination. Instead, I walked another two blocks and into Thai Star Cafe.

It had been years since I've eaten at this long-standing restaurant that is in desperate need of a wrecking ball. With all the development in the surrounding area, it should only be a matter of time. But I digress.

I entered, grabbed a take-out menu, scanned it and ordered. I waited a good 15 minutes for my order to appear. During that lag, the two occupied tables (not including the cook who ate dinner out front) provided some good people-watching.

Of particular note was the Asian couple that attempted to send back their side of rice. "I eat rice every day," the woman said to the waiter. "This rice is too crunchy. There's something in the middle. You didn't cook it long enough." The waiter proceeded to roll his eyes and head back towards the front of the restaurant. The woman continued to eat her rice, though I struggled to hear an audible crunch.

I arrived home and proceeded to dig into my Thai food:

Spring rolls -- While as basic as it gets, they failed to cut the skin into separate rolls. Plus, in addition to the tofu being too hard, the accompanying plum sauce was flavorless.

Pad Woonsen -- This dish looked like it was prepared last week and simply reheated. The vegetables were not fresh and I'm thankful that I didn't get ill from the chicken and shrimp in the dish. I ate about a third of it before it quickly went in the dumpster for fear that it would contaminate my kitchen.

WEDNESDAY DINNER -- THAI AREE
In route to O'Hare to pick up my wife, I had time to pull off the Kennedy at Addison and head to Thai Aree. I arrived at 7:45 p.m. and sadly was the only patron. I gave Anne my order for take-out and it rapidly appeared within five minutes. Eddie was not there.

Back on the Kennedy, I had to dig into the bag of shrimp wrapped in a wonton (don't remember Thai name of this starter). They were crispy, fresh and packed with flavor. If I could have maneuvered to access the hot oil-based dipping sauce I would have.

After finally locating my wife in the new secure O'Hare, we returned to the car. My wife opened her door and took one sniff: "You went to that Thai place off Addison, didn't you?"

We arrived home at 9:45 p.m. and the food had definitely cooled off -- at least temperature-wise.

The shrimp starters were just as tasty as they were 90 minutes prior. The sauce was a good condiment, of sorts, but didn't add to the overall enjoyment of the dish.

I also reheated and plated these two entrees, which I ordered with "medium" heat in response to Anne's "how hot" query:

NAM PRIK PAO with beef: I was a little disappointed with this dish. In telling Anne that I wanted it with rice, two-thirds of the large container was occupied with just that -- rice. (Clearly, next time I'll ask for rice on the side.) The vegetables (they graciously added "American" broccoli for me) were flavorful, the sauce pungent and the beef was good. Sadly, the amount of beef was lacking and overall the dish would have been better without a spin in the microwave.

PAD SEE EIW with chicken: Very good dish that would have tasted even better fresh out of the kitchen. Again, the amount of chicken present was minimal compared to past visits to Thai Aree. I neglected to notify my wife of the expected heat with the dish. After fanning her mouth to signify "hot," she proceeded to drink nearly three tall glasses of water. She then asked if I have anything else that's not as hot, such as rice. While I did have plenty of rice, I advised her to simply take a pass.

Overall, while the Thaifecta (TM) didn't produce a winning ticket, it was enjoyable nonetheless.

In mid-July my wife heads overseas for a week. Once again, she'll be missed.

Spoon Thai
4608 N. Western
773.769.1173

Thai Star Cafe
660 N. State
312.951.1196

Thai Aree
3592 N. Milwaukee
773.725.6751

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