Chive dumplings at Khao Sarn
There was some chat a little while back in regards to chive dumplings at dim sum and the vegetable dumplings (chive) at Khao Sarn were suggested.
I tried them today at lunch and I'm not a fan. FWIW, I did get them to go (for a 5-10 min. ride back to JP) and so they were pretty greasy from sitting. They also were placed on top of paper doilies in the container, and the paper wouldn't really peel from the bottom of the dumplings, grrr. In the order were 3 large dumplings that remind me of soup dumplings in shape (gathered in a twist at the top) rather than the dumplings I'm familiar with at dim sum (pinched along one side). Regardless of the transport issue, I thought the flavor was just bland. Super greasy skins and not very bright flavors. I took 2 bites and threw them out. I also ordered the pad see ew (sp?) which I know, I know, isn't the big show-y Thai dish, but is a favorite noodle dish of mine. It was tasty enough, but other versions I've had were much much more flavorful and this I found to be rather bland.
I'm not sure I'd ever bother making a trip back to Khao Sarn. Maybe I just don't "get" Thai food, as I was also underwhelmed with my multiple visits to Dok Bua, and both of these restaurants are board favorites. I'm open to suggestions but it seems to me that knock your socks off Thai is tough to find in Boston.
That sounds pretty uninspiring, but before you give up on KS completely, I'd recommend the miang kum (I actually like theirs a little better than Dok Bua's, but it's been a while), the pad kee mao (spicy and addictive) and their whole fish preparations (I think the one I liked best was fried, not steamed, but I imagine they're all solid). There's also haw moak - kind of a mousse of either salmon or chicken - which gets raves but I haven't tried. I do think it's best to eat there if you can - none of the best dishes really travels all that well - noodles get gloppy, fish loses it's crispiness. also, if you eat there you can try the Cobra's Blood (kind of an infused whisky), which I've found surprisingly tasty.
I actually love the chive dumplings at Brown Sugar--but I don't know if it's b/c they're truly good or b/c they're the epitome of guilty comforts (if that's not a contradiction in terms); indeed, chive dumplings as I know them *are* bland. They're big, doughy, chewy pockets crammed full of nothing but 1 type of green, and served with a sweetish dipping sauce.
But I'm sure someone w/ more expertise in Thai cooking can tell us if that's how they're supposed to be or not.
I'm very close to reaching the same conclusion, that I simply don't "get" Thai food, and it kind of surprises me, because overall I'm a pretty adventurous eater. However, as much as I like "pretty spicy" I just can't do "mouth-on-fire hot." I love the sinus rush of wasabi or black pepper, but chile heat kills my sense of taste and after that I might as well be eating a nice big dish of cardboard for all that I can taste anything, and I don't much enjoy such meals.
As a result, I like pad thai okay, but otherwise I find Thai food either too fiery to enjoy or utterly bland and boring - I have not been able to discover any middle ground. I've asked for advice on this board more than once - it really makes me sad and feels like a gap in my openness to the everlasting hunt for Deliciousness, but there it is.
I feel as though I should have been better over the years to keep track of those Thai dishes/restaurants that really wowed me. Brown Sugar is fine, I didn't like Similans at all. I've had good dishes at Tamarind House in Cambridge and Great Thai Chef in Union Square, Somerville (when they first opened years ago, since then it kind of tanked). There's a couple of places on the South Shore that I always enjoyed. When I dined at Dok Bua I tried all of the 'hound-recommended dishes but just wasn't that impressed. I'm a big fan of Thai soups, salads, vegetable preparations, complex curries, noodle dishes, but I don't eat Thai very often anymore because what's around doesn't seem worth the calories. So maybe I just don't get it? I think I do better in Boston with Chinese and Korean cuisines, plus some good ol' Floating Rock thrown in for good measure. Might save Thai exploration for my visits to NY.
Regarding the mixed opinions of the merits of Thai cuisine above, there is no question that Thai appreciation is largely an acquired taste. The flavors and ingredient combinations are unique to that corner of Asia. Perhaps getting in slowly with western friendly Pad Thais, Mee Krobs & Tom Yums is appropriate, for those of you who are already in, one of my favorites, done pretty well here is
Pla Rad Prik
a crispy, whole, white, sea fish, covered with a serious amount of garlic/chili topping, makes your eyes tear a little, but with a little white rice for balance, for me, its damn near the perfect food.
Khao Sarn provides a very good approximation of 'Thai' Thai food, in a
quite comfortable and welcoming manner, it is a real asset to the local food map.