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Nov 9, 2001 11:09 AM

Ruen Pair chowhound dinner

  • r

I believe Alex is doing the formal write-up of our chowhound dinner at Ruen Pair Thursday night, but I just wanted to thank everyone for coming and for another lively chowhound evening of good food and conversation.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting impatiently for a full report on the "orgy" (as characterized by Melanie and Celery) at Chapeau! the previous evening!

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  1. Technically, Melanie's friend, Vince, was the last person to join the bacchanal... but he's not a 'hound! Doesn't that mean it's Celery on the hot seat??

    Celery, let me know if you want me to take a stab... I forgot to pick up a menu in my satiated stupor, but I'm happy to... and I think Rochelle got all the wine notes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Fatemeh
      Melanie Wong

      For Chapeau!, Rochelle said she'd work on the magnum opus. If Celery's off the hook for those notes, last night she said she'd write up the Ruen Pair dinner, thereby relieving Tingting, our late arrival.

    2. Last nite’s dinner at Ruen Pair (1045 San Pablo in Albany) was Chowhound dinner # 20 - 21 ? and it was great to have 8 people to share dishes with.

      We stayed away from the jungle curry that Melanie had found so smelly on her past visit and ended up ordering 9 dishes (out of 92 dishes on their menu, plus a couple of specials) plus dessert, to go with the Navarro White Riesling that Ruth brought and Melanie’s contribution of a 1997 Heyl zu Herrnsheim Liebfrauenkirchen Riesling (from the original Madonna vineyard in Rheinhessen).

      We had been warned by various postings and reviews that Ruen Pair didn’t skimp when it came to spiciness, so we ordered only 2 dishes medium and all the rest of the dishes mild and there was plenty of heat to the whole meal. It was refreshing to get the traditional Thai spicy dishes instead of the watered down versions that so many other Thai places make.

      We started with Thai golden green mussels - which was like a deep friend omelet with the mussels in the batter. This came with a spicy sriracha sauce that was a good complement to the fried batter. Definitely one of those dishes that was good (but a little greasy) while hot but not so good as it cooled and it was one of the few dishes that didn’t get finished.

      Next up was the Tom Yum Gai soup that Rachel Hope recommended highly. Almost can’t wait for my next head cold so I can indulge in this soup. Very spicy.

      We had Larb gai - again very spicy and this wasn’t one of the dishes that we ordered medium, but that delicious spicy that makes you want to keep eating it. the best larb gai I’ve had in ages.

      We also had the Naked Prawn salad - they also have a Naked Prawn Papaya salad which I think was what I was supposed to order - but I missed that on the menu. the naked prawns were butterflied raw prawns marinated with garlic, fresh chili and lime juice (but not for long as they weren’t in any way cooked by the lime juice). This was served with a sauce that I didn’t get to try but which everyone else was fighting over. These were very spicy as well (and ordered mild).

      Next up was the Fried Morning Glory stir fried with garlic and soybean sauce. These were a bit difficult to eat as they were kind of like overgrown pea shoots (long and stringy) but I really loved these so just stuffed them in my mouth as best I could.

      Chinese olive with ground pork was a dish that either everyone loved or hated (Lee thought it was the best dish and I thought it was the worst) - it was listed as marinated ground pork sauteed with chinese olives, garlic and pepper - seemed almost deep fried (very crunchy).

      Ma sa Man curry beef - we ordered medium since it’s usually a mild dish to start with. It didn’t seem to have much spice tho.

      Last on the entree was Pla Krob Num - a whole fish (we didn’t ask what kind) filleted and lightly battered, deep fried and served with a sweet and spicy apple salad. Alex voted for this one so we could compare this with Lotus of Siam’s version later this month. It was very tasty and the apple salad was julienned apples with lime and chilis and really added to the fish.

      We then decided we had to try dessert and ordered mango with sticky rice - 2 orders, but they later came back and said they only had enough for one order and suggested we order this thai custard with sticky rice - it was slightly green so we asked what was in it and she said eggs (Melanie decided they must have just used the ham for another dish and saved the green eggs for this one), The portion of mango was huge and good and the custard was tasty but I didn’t think either one was that special (I’ll take an extra order of larb gai over dessert any day!).

      All this for only $16 per person (not sure what the corkage was - and they added the tip to the bill since we had eight people). Service was a little scattered - we had to ask for enough plates for everyone and water as each person showed up and then they took one of the bottles of wine away ostensibly to open it but maybe they chilled it... not sure what happened with that! The food was so good - just go with patience to deal with the service.

      Ok all - did I leave anything out?!

      ..and yes I figured my karma would be good if I did this post and was HOPING that rochelle was going to do the chapeau post (she had the menu with her most of the nite) hint hint :)

      17 Replies
      1. re: Celery

        You missed the 1000-year-egg salad? You'll just have to go back.

        1. re: j gold
          Melanie Wong

          Hey Jonathan, nice to see you visiting the boards again. I'm looking at the take-out menu right now and don't see this delicacy listed. Please tell us about it. Also, the other salad that sounded so intriguing was the golden catfish salad - recommended?

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Is the ``golden catfish salad'' the one with the crunchy, stinky bits of fried preserved fish? If so, it's grand.

            I've found that what the restaurant (at least the Hollywood one) does best is that which most fully embraces its Chiu Chow/Thai-Chinese heritage: fried morning glory with garlic, pork with Chinese olives, roast goose, soups laced with Chinese pickles. The standard Thai dishes tend to be, well, standard.

            1. re: j gold

              That's a practical framework for ordering. I can work with that. No Chiu Chow roast goose on the Albany menu, but maybe I can special order it. Would love to have this dish again.

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                Caitlin McGrath

                Melanie, next time you're in NYC, be sure to make time for chiu chow roast goose; there have been a few posts discussing where to order it in Chinatown.

              2. re: j gold
                Shepherd B. Goode

                Never had pork with Chinese olives prior to Thursday night. What we had seemed, well, gravel-like in texture; the olives were there, but I couldn't taste the pork. The meat was hardened, it just seemed overcooked. Ideally, how should this dish come across in texture and flavor? I had pictured something a little closer to the larb gai.

          2. re: Celery

            okay, okay, i promise i'll get to it, i've been consciously avoiding starting it all day, knowing that it'll be hell reliving the decadence. maybe after my lunch with elise at bay bread on cole i'll feel revived and can tackle it!

            1. re: Celery

              Very good descriptions, but I think you missed a dish: the Issan Thai sausage -- which was good but think would have been improved by being cut into smaller pieces to better balance the sausage and accompaniments in each bite.

              I think my personal fave (kind of surprisingly, since I'm not a huge raw fish eater) was the naked prawns -- hot even without the sauce, with chile seeds clinging to them. The larb was also wonderful with its balance of warm and cool in both temperature and spiciness.

              As always, one of the best parts of eating with my fellow chowhounds is trying things I never would have tried otherwise.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                How could I have forgotten the sausage - I really liked that! Also Shep brought wine as well - a zinfandel - but I didn't write down the details - maybe he'll share that? Glad to see some new faces (Shep and Tingting) at dinner as well as everyone else.

                I was commenting at the last 2 dinners on how much fun it is to go out with folks who don't mind if you pick off their plate (and usually insist that you do as well!)

                1. re: Celery
                  Shepherd B. Goode

                  What a great dinner, and what an attractive, engaging bunch of folks to enjoy it with. This place has been one of my "neighborhood dives" for 25 years, through about four incarnations; and Ruen Pair's prices are reasonable enough that it will stay on the list.

                  My favorite dish? Tossup between the whole fish (I got the crunchy tail), and the sorta skimpy Naked Prawn salad, which came with an incendiary sauce. Don't let the kids near this one.

                  The zin was not appropriate for the meal, but I wanted to try it on. Rosenblum Rockpile 99. It wants to be decanted and aired for an hour or so, to open the fruit. Melanie said to drink it now, don't stash it, so I shall. They're sold out down at the refinery, but I've seen it at a couple of retailers.

                  Thanks, Ruth, for organizing a fine dinner.

                  1. re: Shepherd B. Goode

                    I'm with Celery on the larb gai as the best dish. But the most intersting to me was the green mussel omelet like thingy - thanks so much for recommending it.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      Shepherd B. Goode

                      I was thinking last night how good the larb gai would be rolled up in some butter lettuce, with maybe a little streak of peanut sauce. Please, sir, may I have some more?

                      1. re: Shepherd B. Goode

                        If that's what you were dreaming of, you would have loved the minced squab wrapped in lettuce cups that Alexandra and I had in SF tonight. (g)

                  2. re: Celery

                    It was GREAT! I am so happy that I didn't miss it!
                    The Naked pawns were soo GOOD! Whew, it was certainly SPICY! The apple salad was great too... The Morning glory was very tasty. I was trying to figure out what was in it--might have a little bit of oyster sause, yum. I liked the curry! It wasn't spicy but it was very flavorful.

                    1. re: tingting

                      I did notice some pieces of bean in the morning glory dish, like from brown bean sauce.

                    2. re: Celery

                      Celery, I did spy you picking up some choice morsels off neighboring plates with your fingers. All part of the good friends/family feeling of our chowhound dinners. (g)

                  3. re: Celery

                    i bet the green in the rice custard was pandanus leaf--I think i read in a vietnamese cookbook (mai pham?) that it's considered "the vanilla of southeast asia". Attached is a description of a meal i had that included a custard with the above