So after much ruminating, a lot of great chow advice, and several intense pre meal visualisation sessions, we made our way north on western for a meal at the well loved Spoon Thai.
It was such an epic voyage, that I shall have to fight the urge to write Hemingwayesque prose such as, "It was a salad. It was a thai pork neck salad. And it was good."
The wine was an 02 new zealand Villa maria reisling. This was my first time pairing a riesling with thai food and it was as advertised; sublime. All of its flavor elements; its mild sweetness, subtle acidity and citrussy overtones were like shimmering reflections of the foods dominant flavors. And the alcohol brought a new dimension to the table....and diluted the heat.
1. tom yum kha. The broth was equal parts sweet, sour and savory with a subtle heat. Floating within the soup were beautiful slivers of red onion, long thin chunks of chiken breast, straw mushrooms, cilantro leaves, and little red pepper flakes. a well executed classic that was perfectly complemented by the riesling.
2. the isaan sausage. These little balls of fermented link brought 3 unexpected sensations to my palate. First a fermented acidity rather like the sour of kim chee. Next a strong kick of spicy raw garlic, finally a soft graininess contributed by the rice stuffed within the casing. I really liked the overall flavor and mouthfeelof the sausage, but I felt it a lone ingredient in need of a dish. Perhaps sweet mango and toasted nuts in a salty/sweet fish sauce? It was just to monochromatic a flavor to stand on its own, in my book.
3. Fried chicken. A simply delicious offering reminiscent of the japanese fried chicken dish, karaage. I imagine it was long soaked in a lime/fish sauce marinade then rolled in a thai dry rub and fried. The chicken ended up dense and moist like the best smoked meats, with a salty, fragrant flavor and a pleasing crust partially consisting of crispy fried skin. Haru, my three year old loved it.... almost as much as I did.
4. chinese broccoli with crispy pork. The vegitable was perfetly cooked; crisp, green and earthy in flavor. the not-overly-thickened gravy was a slightly sweet, smokey, and salty soy sauce. The crispy pork had an outer woody texture, reminiscent of Lem's tips with a soft fatty meaty interior. A lovely dish, though I think the overall dinner would have benefitted from a less meaty vegitable offering.
5. Pork neck laab. The neck itself was thin sliced, each piece transecting multiple tissue layers. The outermost was a subcutaneous fatty layer that yielded an elastic pop to each bite. The next layer was denser and chewier than typical cuts of pork, kind of like the cuts of beef that end up floating in bowls of pho. the inner most layer was more like a typical cut of pork, simple and meaty and satisfying. That being said ,I think that such complex, not traditional cuts of meat benefit from the unifying force of grilling, as as a cooking method. Is there a pork neck nam tok at spoon? I forgot to ask. The dressing was wonderful, with salty, sour, and fiery elements, crunchy toasted rice bits, crisp onion slices, and fragrant cilantro leaves all contributing to a vibrant party in my mouth.
So my overall impression? Spoon has a wonderfully diverse menu full of well executed and seemingly authentic dishes that I wish to explore. I still think that Siam noodle and rice has a spicing style, favoring in-your-face elements like visible lemon grass shoots and kaffir lime leaves, that is a bit more pleasing to my own palate. But I hope to use spoon's diversity of dishes to expand and inform my ordering at Siam to off-menu items.
And it was good.