GWiv had the idea of a little pre-chowhound tasting get together at Thai Aree, so sample some dishes form off Eddie's menu, and give him some feedback on specific dishes/strategies that we'd like to include in the whole hound gettogether later this month. As will happen, enthusiasm for the pre-dinner scouting mission spread like a colorado wildfire, so we ended up with a crowd of about 13 on monday night in beautiful avondale for a fantastic thai banquet. Here's what I remember from the menu:
Larb Pork -- ground pork with toasted rice, lime, chili, cilantro
Tawd Mun -- orange deepfried fish cakes, fresh and light
Som Tum - green papaya salad with lime and chili and cute green cherry tomatoes. (this was the only dish that wasn't spiced at an incendiary level ... but it was a refreshing counterpoint to the searing larb.
Shrimp in a blanket -- deepfried filo wrapped shrimp - a well executed simple dish
various special chilis -- eddie provided two non-standard bowls of chili condiment. One was a coarsely chopped thin green chili lightly marinated in vinegar (i think) and the other was a mix of red and green chilies that had been allowing to mingle for a longer time. Both were great with the beef dishes below and for heating up the som tum.
Grilled beef -- rare grilled beef with lettuce leaves and not much else. Was it marinated? I can't remember
Grilled Beef with Garlic - beef grilled a little more, and served with lettuce, string beans, and tomato, plus cilantro and more marinated chilis and loads of sliced raw garlic. Some how, the raw garlic didn't burn the way you'd expect though it did permeate my flesh to the extent that two days laters I was still getting complaints from my bedmate.
veggie tofu (elizabeth) -- i didn't try it.
Sour curry w/shrimp -- yum, off the menu. see below
Jungle curry with beef and thai eggplant - eh- off the menu see below
Green curry with chicken? and thai eggplant - yum ouch see below
Bean sprouts with tofu- this was a pile of beansprouts stirfried in oyster sauce with a little bit of cubed tofu. Nothing particularly earth shattering but nice.
Thai omelet - I liked this dish alot! it was an omelet flavored with fish sauce and onions, little shrimp and various other savoried unidentifiables. Served with sriracha hot sauce and fresh cilantro. It was a touch too salty, but otherwise great.
coconut ice -- with jackfruit and dryroasted peanuts. This a is a nice dessert
taro pudding - eh.
Everything was good: most items had a level of heat beyond what I had been able to coax from Thai Aree on previous visits. The pork larb was expecially fiery, and the green curry had a lingering back of the tongue kick that grew in intensity the longer you went without putting something new in your mouth. (My personal capsaicin-pain peak snuck up on me midstream after I had excused myself mid-main-course to answer the call of nature). But anything could be doctored up spicy thanks to the little bowls of chili concoctions so thoughtfully provided in addition to the usual condiments tray of dried and fresh peppers.
Most every dish was notable -- the only one I was less than crazy about was the jungle curry, which had a certain herb (which Eddie named and I promptly forgot) that added a pungent bitterness to every bite. The sour curry was the most interesting dish from the standpoint of pushing normally watered down flavor combinations into the stratoshere: it had a mouth puckering sour galangal note that resolved into a sort of fishy sweetness. I'd had what I think must've been the gringo version of this dish at Thai Aree a coupla weeks ago, and the difference was stunning.
Thai egglant was the big winner at this meal -- small globular green fig looking spheres quartered and just barely cooked. They were terrific: i'm curious to check out thai groceries and get ahold of some of these for hime use. I also love the tawd mun -- so far removed from any other version I've had in chicago.
For the real thing, I would love it we added som noodle dishes, since the ones I've had there in the past had beautfully executed noodles in pedestrian surroundings. And we should get some other limy chiliy dishes to start, plus the larb, which was fab.