Thai in other Ontario cities
Hi...I've just recently moved to Toronto and from reading these boards, can clearly see most people feel there are very few decent Thai restaurants in the GTA. In so many posts, I kept reading about ketchup in Pad Thai and thought "what the heck?". I've eaten in many Thai restaurants in Ontario and the US and had never experienced that. It made me start to wonder if it's been there all along and I never noticed it. THEN I had a pad thai from Thai Garden (I think), a fast-food place in one of the financial district food courts (can't remember which, sorry) and I knew exactly what everyone was complaining about! Horrible! I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would choose that over a real pad thai.
I've tried pad thai two other places in T.O. -- Salad King (I liked it), and Golden Thai (terrible...very dry, little flavour...I was disappointed given the mostly positive reviews this restaurant gets here).
Anyway, wanted to know if anyone can recommend good Thai food in other Ontario cities? I LOVE Sahla Thai in St. Catharines...excellent food, ambience and service. Any good recommendations for the London area?
Also, if anyone is visiting Buffalo this winter for shopping or otherwise, they have a wonderful Thai restaurant called The King and I. I used to live there and oh...how I miss it :(
Ottawa has some spectacular Thai restaurants. The best one by far when I lived there was Sweet Basil, which has a panaeng curry and a pad ki mow that are to die for. Its sister restaurant, Anna Thai, is also very good, but more designed to ordering your own plate instead of sharing. Both are a bit pricey and offer small portions of perfectly executed food.
I also like Royal Thai; unlike Sweet Basil, its food consists of generous portions of more hearty fare, but incredibly delicious as well (albeit perhaps a bit more North Americanized).
Funny you should mention Sahli Thai. When I first moved to Toronto I said the best thai restaurant was in St. Catharines (Sahli Thai). No one believed me and said that there was no way St. Catharines has better thai then Toronto. Then these people tried to tell me that Salad King was the best thai food. So I go to Salad King expected some really amazing food. Wow I was ever disappointed.
I really don't mean to harp on the issue, but Toronto really does have some of the *worst* Thai food in all the cities I've ever lived in. I walked into about fifteen different Thai restaurants in the DC area when strolling by, and all but one of them were better than even the best Toronto Thai locations (prior to the opening of Mengrai Thai).
I mean, this seems to be the city that's created the ketchup pad thai, which speaks for itself, which I don't recall having seen in Ottawa, DC, or Montreal.
re: Food Tourist
FT, they do. They can. Not at all tiny, more mid-sized. They have multiple rooms and levels. With a party of 8 you may be able to get a semi-private area. I'm thinking of the rooms towards the south end as opposed to the main area. If the 8 are all couples there's a rather nice seating arrangment at the west side of the main room that's sofa seating with pillows. By virtue of the pillars, this area feels secluded and romantic.
Sahla Thai also has an outpost in Brampton. Not impressive.
Regarding my group of 8 dinner party at MENGRAI Thai, Allan (owner) has offered us a "tasting menu" for $29.50 each since we are a group - it's discounted from his "regular price $39". Has anyone tried any of these dishes and what's the verdict for us -- tasting menu OR a la carte?
1st course (chef appetizer):
Golden Flower (chicken piccalilly, scissored herbs, toasted scallions)
Fresh cold spring roll (organic greens, mango shards, carrot, cucumber)
Taro yam rolls (rice net pastry, seasoning, sweet chili relish)
Mini seductive shrimp rolls (garlic, egg wheat pastry)
2nd course (salad)
Crispy Morning Glory pair with Golden Pumpkin soup
3rd course (main)
avocado king prawn (green curry infusion)
4th course (main) served with jasmine steamed rice
original styled vegetarian pad thai noodle (stir fry asian greens)
pan seared sea bass (tamarind coconut, fruit gastrique, steamed field greens)
bankers braised curry lamb (with peach)
#54 red curry chicken (with lychee)
pineapple organic beef tropical rice (side basil shrimps, asian woks)
5th course (dessert)
ginger candied ice cream
mango snowball (sweet coco-creme sticky rice, fresh mango)
The third dessert appears to be missing from the menu Allan emailed me.
re: Food Tourist
This sounds like an amazing deal to me, and if I were you, I would probably jump at the opportunity to get the tasting menu for such a reasonable price.
My comments on the dishes you listed, some of which I have tried a la carte:
Golden Flower: I found this to be okay, albeit a bit dull. The staff hyped it up more than I felt was justified.
Taro yam rolls: Now these, on the other hand, are superb! I like taro, but I didn't realize just how much until they served me this dish. The net pastry is fantastically crispy and with the softer taro interior, the texture of this dish is just as delightful as the taste. The relish pairs perfectly with it. I would never even consider not getting this dish at Mengrai.
Crispy morning glory: Again, this was one of my favourites. I usually find pumpkin soup to be frightfully boring, but at Mengrai, I believe they jazzed it up with a little bit of red curry paste, and man, does this make a difference. The morning glory is battered in a delicate tempura and flash fried so as not to be oily at all. I found them both good individually, but using the pumpkin soup as a dip for the morning glory elevated the dish to a whole new level for me.
Avocado king prawn: Dull and lacking in flavour. I'd eat it again if it were on a tasting menu, but there's no way I'd get it a la carte. Alan insisted on us having it, and even provided it to us for free while we were there because he wanted us to try it so badly. Apparently, Sasi has won awards for it, but I'm really not sure why. I found that the presentation was beautiful, but the avocado sauce was bland and really didn't do anything for the dish at all.
Original pad thai: Absolutely get this, and it must be the original pad thai. It is the only pad thai on their menus, from my recollection, that uses tamarind instead of ketchup. I typically hated ordering pad thai in restaurants because I have, over the years, formulated my own pad thai recipe that far surpassed pad thais that I'd had at any establishment. That is no longer the case. This was perfectly prepared and bursting with flavour, unlike the mess of ketchupy, improperly cooked noodles that most restaurants in the city offer. On my second visit to Mengrai, despite my insistences on us getting the original pad thai, she demanded that we try Sasi's special pad thai instead, and it was very disappointing: full of ketchup and far too shrimp-flavoured.
Lychee curry with chicken: One of Sasi's hallmark dishes and superb. You cannot go to one of her restaurants and not get it. Frankly, I found her panaeng a bit better, but this was a close second out of all the curries that we tried.
Tropical rice: Lovely presentation in a carved out half-pineapple. The beef looked tough when it came and we were hesitant, but it was deceptively tender and perfectly prepared. We all fought over this one even though it was quite a generous portion.
Out of the desserts, all I tried was the ginger candied ice cream, which was the perfect conclusion to the meal. Even my friend who typically despises ginger and was about to give me her portion changed her mind after taking a little taste.
All in all, I think that you will have an evening of pure bliss.
Agreed. That's a great price pp for the quality of food and service you're going to get.
Golden Flowers were pretty average in the past. When I had them 2 weeks ago they were very much improved. This time I really enjoyed them.
Mini Seductive Shrimp Roll: Tiny, tasty little guys not unlike goong haw. I much prefer these to their shrimp triangles.
Crispy Morning Glory w/ Golden Pumpkin Soup: I've not had the CMG, but I can assure you the pumpkin soup is to die for.
Sea Bass: I haven't had the specific version you're going to have in that it didn't have fruit gastrique or field greens. I will say that the version I had was rich yet light, complex in a way that slows you down so you may enjoy each moment.
Lamb: Again, just delightful. Moist... tender... delicious... I could go on but I haven't had lunch yet.
I will disagree with Vorpal on one item. The Avocado king prawn he found bland I enjoyed for its cooling, calming effect. As a mid-course I felt it did it's job well. I found the combination of flavours to be very sexy in a way that made me look forward to the mains.
I never make it to dessert at Mengrai.
In all other regards, I echo Vorpal's opinions completely. It sounds like these guys are getting even better still.
I have only been to the one in Brantford but the website says there are other locations in Hamilton, Burlington and Ancaster. The one in Brantford is in an old converted pub downtown (most recent incarnation was Purdy's "Irish" pub) and they made it look really nice (its not the one one the website) I've been there once to eat in and gotten takeout a couple of times, I think its pretty yummy.
I could have referred you to Royal Thai restaurant in Barrie Ont 60 miles up the 400 hgwy but I just learned that it burned down recently.
I have also been searching for good Thai food.. It's hard to find, but there's a new restaurant that just opened up on Fairview Street in Burlington and I just went there the other day with a friend. It's called Thai Coconut Restaurant. I had a pad Thai there, and I have to say it was great.. the flavour was just right - not too sweet and not too spicy, either. It had a nice texture to it and everything in it was fresh, too. It left me feeling satisfied.. for dessert we had deep fried banana fritters (definitely one of the better ones I've tasted) - they were crispy and had honey drizzled lightly over them.. scrumptious. I think I have found a new favourite Thai restaurant! I think this one is definitely worth checking out. The atmosphere looks authentic and exotic, and the service was polite and very friendly. The prices are pretty reasonable, too. I would recommend this one if you're ever in the Burlington area.