At the Hollywood Samanalung Cafe last night with Ara - he calls it Sam's Lung. My appreciation for this place has deepened over the last few years. The louder dishes are never quite right - the Yen Ta Fu, the chili stir fries. But the Samnalung Noodles - clear broth, perfect slippery noodles, etc.
Anyway, I have a hard time tearing myself away from that dish. But Ara has the brilliant idea of ordering the chicken over rice - something which, if I'd thought about it for a few minutes, would have craved but been afraid to order.
Chicken over rice - boiled chicken over white rice, with some chicken broth in the side and a bit of dipping sauce - is exactly the kind of dish that most restaurants, especially cheap ones, are afraid to do. No masking possible - depends on good quality chicken, well made broth, good quality rice, and skillful execution. (Side note - speaking of good rice, the last time I was at Ruen Pair, the rice was definitely new crop. Clear and lovely enough to be eaten straight. Man, it's been a while since I've had good new crop rice.) And the results are - subtle, and unimpressive to most people who go out. Because it's boiled chicken over rice.
The version at Samnalung is great. The chicken isn't melt in your mouth tenderized or chewy, but sort of - appropriately al dente. Supple. Definitely chicken. Pour the chicken broth over the chicken and rice, and the rice soaks up this clear flavor. The dipping sauce is right too - slight touch of warmth, mostly zingy. But soft enough around the edges not to interfere with the gentle warmth of chicken and rice.
(I was reading somewhere that when some big chefs get together for dinner, they just boil chicken for each other - a test if skill, perfect if done right for pure presentation of chicken - but no one would ever order it in their restaurant.)
Should have figured this would be the non-soup to get here - since their best soups are the ones with the cleanest, purest chicken broths and the rice noodles. So they get chicken-and-rice in other delivery forms - why not the most straightforward?
We gobbled. Ara was kind enough to give me a third of his dish, even though he wanted none of mine.