This is in response to a posting from a while back about the decline of Thai Town. Sorry I haven't posted a reply sooner - I've been laid up with illness - immobile and without appetite.
Martin, you said you tried Ruen Pair on my recc and were disappointed. May I ask what you ordered? I would like to know if there is a difference of taste here, of something else. I feel vaguely guilty, because I think I have, in all my postings about Ruen Pair, one of my favorite restaurants in town, neglected to mention a very important thing - that about half the menu is terrible. Reliably good: any salad, most of the soups. Reliably bad: anything that involves stir-fried noodles or noodles and gravy. I mean, greasy, globby, and disgusting. This includes pad thai, rad nar, pad kee mow, pad see ewe. I think I learned this so early there that it has subconsciously guided my orderings. Someone who knows far more about these things than me once posted that the good things there were distinctively Northern - salads, Chinese-eye stirfries, and the things that were bad there were distinctively bangkok - pad thai, curries, etc. My rule of thumb is - anything that I recognize from the "standard" Thai restaurants back at home is probably going to be bad. (This is not to say that I don't love that other stuff - Ruen Pair just seems to be bad at it. There's a lovely pad see ewe or pad kee mao [I always confuse the two - it's the one with scrambled egg] across the parking lot at Ganda.)
Anyway, yeah. Favorites there: fried green mussels, combination salad (chinese sausage, preserved ducks egg, thousand year old egg) with plenty of fresh ginger and preserved mustard, soup with vermicelli noodles and stuffed tofu, duck soup, green papaya salad (ordered hot), stir-fried Chinese broccoli with fried pork. I, and a few others, relish the crispy fish salad, but most find it overwhemingly pungent and salty.
Renu Nakorn is a much more reliable restaurant, cross-menu-wise (though less reliable time-wise) and is the more delicate, balanced, etc. of the two. Ruen Pair is my favorite for the perfect balance of searing flavors. Amy once commented to me, at about 2 AM in the morning at a table in Ruen Pair, as we chowed down on my new favorite soup (I'll post that in a second) and green papaya salad, and she said she suddenly understood where we were. "Renu Nakorn is the classy restaurant for this sort of stuff. Ruen Pair is just the best diner in the world." And she was right - it's powerfully flavored, direct-to-the-lizard-in-the-back-of-the-brain food, good and hearty and direct. This is maybe why, late-night diner-o-phile that I am, I never had to seek out an American diner in town.