I went to dinner at Ruen Pair, the Thai restaurant in Berkeley, twice in the last week - dinner on Saturday and Wednesday. It definitely lived up to my expectations built up over the last few months since the Chowhound dinner there. Its now my favorite Thai place.
On Saturday, we ordered:
Angel wings: Huge stuffed boneless chicken wings. These were good with a breaded, fried coating but the stuffing wasn't all that flavorful.
Golden star wontons: Not much filling but presented with the fried wonton wrapper folded like origami into a beautiful star.
Thai beef salad: This was ordered medium but true to the Chowhound report, much spicier than other restaurants' "spicy." Both the beef and lettuce were larger pieces, not the shredded version I've had, resulting in bolder flavor. Very good.
Issan-style sausage: One of the favorites. Chubby sausages with a nice savory and slightly sour flavor.
Ruen Pair special noodles (ordered with ground chicken): I love rice noodles, in soup, in chowfun, or this version. It was a tomato-based sauce with bits of meat, tasting like a cross between zhajiang mian and spaghetti.
Garlic calamari and scallops: The only miss of the night. Calamari and scallops were overcooked and slightly rubbery. Just nothing special here except for providing the evening's entertainment. This dish was stir-fried with strips of red bell pepper and green Thai chilies. The restaurant is dimly lit so the first 2 people who tried this thought it was green bell pepper and put a huge piece in their mouths. They were literally dripping with sweat for 5-10 minutes. Shoveling rice, water, or Thai ice tea in the mouth didn't help much.
Roasted duck curry: I thought that this was a pretty small portion of food with small, skimpy pieces of duck. But the flavor was pretty good and I liked addition of sweet chunks of pineapple.
After a bad day at work on Wednesday, I decided I was craving the spicy comfort food of Ruen Pair so I called up some friends and we went again. We ended up with:
Gai-Hor-Bai-Ter: This was a very interesting appetizer. Boneless chicken chunks wrapped in Pandan(??) leaves and deep fried. It came with a sweet chili dipping sauce. I thought that the leaves were meant to be eaten, like shells are with salt and pepper prawns. Everyone else said no so I took a small bite and then chickened out. Any expert opinions?
Egg rolls: Very pedestrian choice but well made here. They were smallish vegetarian egg rolls. Nice and crispy without grease.
Golden catfish salad: The catfish was deep-fried and formed a lacy doily over a sour apple salad. I didnt taste apple so much as fish sauce and spiciness, even though it was ordered mild. The catfish was weirdly chewy. Jurys still out on this one.
Panang curry with beef: Lovely peanut curry that didnt overwhelm the meat. Good rendition.
Ruen Pair special noodles: Looks like this is a mainstay!
Pad Ka Prow roasted duck: Small portion again, like the curry on Saturday. Maybe because roast duck has suddenly become a scarcity? Decent but I think the best version of this dish Ive ever had was at Phuping in Pacific East Mall. Ruen Pairs didnt have enough smoky heat from the chilis.
Chinese broccoli with roasted pork: The gailan was crisp and fresh. I found the pork too salty and chewy. It seemed to be crispy fried pork rather than the fatty and tender side pork that I wsa expecting.
Heres the link to Ruen Pair: