I have to admit I walked into this place expecting not to like it. There is another Thai place in Highland Park which is a below par Thai experience. Additionally, my friend's husband grew up in Hong Kong. Everyone is always inquiring where to get the best chinese. Though we have plenty of asian offerings in Highland Park, it is far better and cheaper to go to Chicago. So with this accumulated experience, I walked into Candles with somewhat of a chip on my shoulder.
Candles is a 2 week old restaurant located where Chicago Diner, a vegan restaurant, used to be next to the car wash. Not missing any beat, I inquired if they had a menu for Thai dinners. They looked rather startled and replied no.
We were seated at a white tableclothed table and handed the menu. On the two chowhound dinners I attended, I never had reason to look the menu over. I found myself struggling with my memory to rememeber foods I liked: exploded catfish, crispy fish, fish custard, one-bite salads, the beef salads, ect. Somethings on the menu stood out from prior posts: Tom Yum Koong (something Erik mentioned), Nam Tok, Lard Nar. However most of the menu did not offer the Thai names but rather names, like Sizzling Ocean Plate or Ginger Salmon. So I was a bit out of sorts knowing what I wanted but not quite sure how to order it.
My query to the waiter was which of the salads offered represented one-bite-salads. He looked at me blankly. "Had you heard of these?" "No, what is it?" Then I began to wonder if one-bite-salads is our shorthand for something offered but a Thai would never refer to as one-bite-salad.
KNowing I wasn't going to get help and hungry, I ordered: Spring Rolls, Grilled Eggplant and Singapore Noodles.
Spring rolls were cold egg roll skins filled with lettuce, carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts, tofu and scramgled eggs. Topped with plum sauce, red and green onions. My Mom was the first one to try and instantly pronounced it delicious. I looked over to a rather earnest appraisal -- remember I came expecting to dislike -- so I forked my segment and had the same happily unexpected response.
We had our entrees put in the center of table for our sampling. I tried the Singapore Noodles first, they were the best variant I have had of this dish. I was rather sorry I had to share these noodles. The grilled eggplants were accompanied by chicken breast, shrimp and plenty of basil. The whole composition with sauce was really quite wonderful to taste and look at.
We'll return soon and probably give a chance to Sizzling Ocean Plate.
Candles Thai Cuisine
581 Elm Place
Highland Park, IL 60035
Tel: 847/433-THAI (8424)
Sun-Thurs: 11 AM - 9:30 PM
Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 10 PM