Great food, great conversation and an overabundance of wine is a good place to start a description of our Saturday Chowhound Thai Aree dinner. We had a nice sized group, 25, which slightly overflowed the side dining room. Not only was the Chowcompany enjoyable, it was nice to be able to put names to a few more Chowhound faces. My notion that Chowhounds are among the more interesting people populating this planet was, once again, confirmed.
Thai Aree put their best foot forward, not only with on the menu items, but a number of dishes prepared especially for curious Chowhounds. As far as heat level, we started off the evening firmly in Thai Arees medium, but as this proved to be a bit on the spicy side for many. Eddie decided, and rightly so, to offer a mix of mild and medium with each dish.
I would like to thank Eddie and Anne, the owners of Thai Aree, not only are they incredibly gracious, but they have the confidence in their customers to allow them to experience Thai food, as opposed to a homogenized olive garden Thai.
I also have to thank Anne and her sisters for sticking around until midnight, two hours after they normally close, so we could sip wine, converse and enjoy each others company.
Thanks also to all the wonderful, interesting Chowhounds that Ellen and I had the pleasure of enjoying a wonderful evening with, we are looking forward to the next Chowevent.
By the way, we collected $101 in Chowhound good will money, that I will send to the Chowhound site compliments of Chicago Chowhounds Thai Aree dinner.
I will provide a link with pictures of our Thai Aree Chowhound dinner.
Ill start the ball rolling on the Chowdinner and I am sure that others will help fill in the blanks.
Larp (#14) was delicious, spicy hot, with bright clean flavors shining through, a perfect blend of the sour, salty, spicy taste that makes Thai food so appealing. Thai Aree also uses the traditional addition of ground toasted rice for additional depth of flavor and fragrance.
Nue Num Tok (#15), medium charcoal-broiled beef and onions seasoned with sour, salty, spicy sauce served with lettuce. This is a wonderful dish of contrasting flavors, crisp edges of charcoal beef mixed with red onion, scallion, fresh herbs and peppers straight from the Thai Aree garden.
Pork and Chicken Satay (#1) Plump freshly grilled-skewered satay served with a thick rich peanut sauce and fresh cucumber salad. An excellent version of a Thai restaurant standard.
Spring Rolls (#2) Fresh spring roll wrappers chock full of Chinese sausage, egg, tofu and veggies with a slightly too sweet sauce drizzled on top. Fresh jalapenos are served on the side at Thai Aree and I asked Eddie to go light on the sweet sauce, as I feel goopy sauce detracts from the simple goodness of this American Thai restaurant standard.
Som Tum (#24) Often papaya salad is a heat source all of its own, but in this case Eddie used the Som Tum as a palate cleanser, a Thai sorbet of sorts. Light refreshing flavors, a multitude of veggies and a light sour, salty flavor.
Broiled beef with Garlic (#69) This was topped with thinly sliced fresh, sweet garlic and drizzled lightly with a sour/salty sauce. Fresh veggies are served as an accompaniment. (One of my favorite dishes at Thai Aree)
Tiger Eye (Off Menu) Grilled beef with a spicy/sour chili sauce to put over the meat.
Sour Curry (Off menu) Shrimp and cauliflower in a wonderfully sour, no coconut milk, curry. Deep rich flavor from chili and shrimp paste.
Jungle Curry. (Off Menu) Very herbal flavor from galangal and one other unidentified herb, though the mystery herbs flavor is evocative of epazote. The Jungle Curry was loaded with veggies, bamboo shoot, bean, cauliflower, Thai eggplant, broccoli, celery, pepper, straw mushroom, whole pea (sugar snap), spinach ong choi, hot pepper and a small amount of beef.
Panang Curry (#54) Coconut based curry thick with ground peanut, spicy from red curry. Eddie and Anne made it with chicken for the Chowhounds.
Panang Curry/No peanut (Off Menu) Thin red coconut milk curry, with the addition of the mystery herb, very rich and fragrant. Made with chicken.
Pad Thai (#46) Thai Arees version is amped up with loads of fresh herbs, veggies, and egg and, for the Chowdinner, shrimp.
Pad Sea-Ewe (#48) Wide rice noodles with a light sauce, some Thai restaurants have a tendency to serve Pad Sea-Ewe with a thick goopy sauce, not at Thai Aree, broccoli and beef. An excellent version of a standard.
Kee Mow (#49) Rice noodles with tomato, basil leaves, beef, onions, chili pepper and beef. Not spicy, but very flavorful, also served light on the sauce.
Note: Thai Aree also made one serving of each noodle dish no meat for the vegetarian in the group.
Ong Choi (Off Menu) Ong Choi aka Water Spinach (water spinach, right?) Slightly astringent palate cleansing flavor, almost watercress like. Lightly stir fried with soy and fish sauce. Shirley, who is Chinese, commented that she was surprised to see ong choi in a Thai restaurant, as it is a typical Chinese dish stir fried with fermented tofu.
Catfish Curry (Off Menu) Not the typical catfish curry preparation, the catfish was almost smokey and the curry had a multilevel richness enhanced the light smoky flavor of the catfish.
Pla Jian (#72) Whole crispy fried Pomfret with a spicy, slightly sweet, sweet chili sauce. At least that is how it was described to me, as I did not get a taste. Eddie bought the fish fresh that morning and they only had three, somehow The Mayor of Chicago Chowhound, Vital Information, and I did not get a taste.
Nam Prik (Off Menu) A variation on a Thai dipping/table sauce. Typically made with dried shrimp or shrimp paste, Eddie and Anne made the Chowversion in the Royal style with fresh shrimp. Absolutely delicious spooned on fresh veggies.
The above was served with steaming bowls of rice, constantly refilled pitchers of water, incredible grace and efficiency, good cheer and a constant smile.
Thanks to all for a wonderful evening.