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Mengrai Thai - review + pics

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Forgive this, as it is a repeat of an older post - just thought I would organize my longer posts with a consistent naming system to ease searching. Cheers!
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I had previously sampled a fantastic Thai restaurant in Ithaca and had yet to find anything to compare to it in Toronto. That is, until I found Mengrai Thai (Thanks Vorpal!). It’s the closest I’ve found to what I had eaten there, though it still doesn’t quite match the supremacy of that meal - I still dream of it to this day…

Alas, I live in Toronto and not in Ithaca, so Mengrai is the closest I will get. I had the pleasure of going to Mengrai a couple of times over the past 6 months and though the first time was superior, both times I was still quite impressed. One has to start with the Golden Flowers appetizer – a beautiful presentation. It was crispy and light and the tasty pockets held perfectly seasoned treasures – sweet peppers, tofu, or shrimp - a great way to start off a meal. The #54 curry was by far my favourite main dish. The unexpected usage of lychee in the dish created bursts of sweet flavour. It created a perfect harmony of flavours and textures within the dish. Another favourite was the taro roll that came in the appetizer platter. However, being an avid taro fan, I may just be a bit biased. The mango salad accompaniment was also very strong and the best I’ve had in Toronto. And you are correct when you state that the Golden Pumpkin Soup is a must have. Though the first time I had it, it was excellently spiced and had a lot of depth, the second sampling did not yield as a great an experience. The crispy morning glory sides were a great compliment to the soup and also highly recommended (though a bit oily for my tastes). I would also agree that the striped bass was lacking – when held in comparison to the other dishes. I would have to say that the dish was forgettable and would not be on my list of “must-try’s”. We finished off our meal with the coconut sticky rice. It had an amazing coconut flavour and the sticky rice consistency was perfectly al dente. The mango was also a welcome addition to the dish – a very tropically-influenced dish. To accompany our meal, we had the thai iced-tea. It was made with a lot of condensed milk and therefore was too heavy for my tastes and would have to pass on it next time. However, the tea aroma was very pleasant.

Pumpkin Soup: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Thai Iced Tea: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Appetizer Combo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Flowers: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
#54 Red Curry: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Striped Bass: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Sticky Rice: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

I would like to qualify my review in that I have yet to sample authentic Thai food from Thailand. As well, since I am not a vegetarian, I have included a sampling of the dishes that I ate (which may or may not be meat-free). However, the menu stipulates that substitutions can be made for vegetarian diners.

Overall, it was a great experience both times and I would definitely return. I believe they may still be working out the kinks in their dishes, as I found that each time I went there was a different presentation to their dishes, as well as different portions and accompaniments. I hope you have a good experience there. Cheers and Happy Eating!

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  1. Hmmm I'm not sure that Mengrai would be the first Thai resto that I would recommend. However my first and only visit I was turned off because of the company I was with and not so much of the food. My husband didn't mind the food but also seconds my opinion of not being the first resto in mind for Thai.

    We went to Mengrai last year when they first opened and the owner was doing a tour of the place, showing us that it was an old distillery - this was all while my husband and I were waiting for the rest of the party to arrive. There wasn't too many tables but there was a larger birthday party - but the food was still slow to come out of the kitchen. The owner suggested we tried his wife's sampling/tasting menu and would do family style plating ... we all agreed - I do admit the flavors are good, but a bit fusiony for my taste. Portions were small for a tasting menu for 6 ppl. It was pricey but alright - overall not the hype that it's been getting.

    Sorry can't agree with you here. If I was to suggest an authentic Thai resto in the DT area it would be Thai Princess on King Street West just east of Spadina on the south side. The curry duck is my favorite! Give it a try and let me know what you think in comparison to Mengrai. I don't think it'll disappoint.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jeannieh20

      OK thanks for the tip. I have not had much luck with Thai food in Toronto, so hopefully this will be the start of a good run. I kind of enjoy the 'fusion-y' aspect of the food, a bit different and lighter in flavour.

      Cheers!

      1. re: jeannieh20

        I've not been to Mengrai so I can't comment there.

        Being from the area, I've to say sorry, but Thai Princess is not at all authentic. Its one of the more westernized Thai places in TO.

      2. And I would have to thank Googs as well, since Vorpal had mentioned that Googs had pointed this place out first.

        1. Just tried Mengrai and I've got to say it's pretty good. When you ask for the dishes that are supposed to be hot to be hot - they do it on a 1 to 10 scale - they aren't timid. Soups were a strength, as was the Thai-style pad thai with tamarind instead of the ubiquitous Toronto ketchup. The curries, though, I found too similar to each other, indicative of a pre-prepared base. I've been on long trips to Thailand twice, and I have yet to find the unique fresh built-on-the-spot curries that they serve there in Toronto. One of the best Thai curries in my life was on a beach in Koh Samui, prepared by a woman carrying a charcoal brazier on one end of a bamboo pole counterbalanced by a heavy bucket full of herbs and spices and utensils, and buying seafood off the fisherman pulling their boats up on the beach. Tough act to follow, I guess, but to me emphasizing how important freshness is to Thai food.

          I didn't have the prix fixe dinner as we wanted to try a bunch of different things, but seeing it on other tables I suspect it is the way to go, much the same as I've never been disappointed in the prix fixe at Linda. The room itself is very cozy, and I would recommend people try to reserve the pillow-overstuffed booths in the back, with authentic furniture and those Thai pyramid pillows that you find all over the Chattuchak market in Bangkok.

          3 Replies
          1. re: childofthestorm

            Now if she juggled too I'd really be impressed.

            You're welcome BokChoi. I should say though that I surrendered my secret to Vorpal for good reason. I very much respect his opinions on Thai food, provisioners, and restaurants. He deserved first shot at Mengrai. I figured if he liked it, that would reinforce my sentiments. As well, you guys might give it a chance on his rec. The blonde loves all food, but is expert in none.

            1. re: Googs

              If she'd juggled I would have felt even more guilty about what I was paying for such a meal. Man, I cannot fathom spending the day trudging up and down the beach humping 50 pounds worth of mobile kitchen.

              1. re: Googs

                I very much do trust your judgment, so do not sell yourself short, Googs.

                Everyone brings their own experiences in food to the table, in a sorts. That is what I love about Toronto - it is so diverse and eclectic. Toronto's food scene is demonstrative of its unique inhabitants and thus a sort of "Toronto-bred" fusion is taking root and flourishing in our city. Cannot wait to try more of what Toronto has to offer.

                childofthestorm - what I would not give to have experienced what you had on that beach. What an impression that must have made. I keep telling myself that I have to make my way out there to try truly authentic Thai food. In the meantime, I will satisfy myself with Mengrai Thai, and other Chow-worthy Thai restaurants in and around T.O.

                Cheers!

            2. Headed to Mengrai Thai to get my dose of delicious Thai food. Went for lunch. Spent $15.95+ tax + tip (-10% discount for cash) and left very satisfied. Excellent portions, great execution, solid flavours and great service. An all 'round solid experience. I would definitely recommend trying their lunch time specials because it is a great deal - the food is not compromised, but the price is significantly more affordable.

              Though the meats were a bit overcooked for my preferences (chicken + seafood), the sauces were rich and fully bodied. Could not resist Combo D (Pumpkin soup, wonton, shrimp tempura, #54 Curry with Chicken, coconut ice cream) for $15.95. It had everything that was 'classic' about a visit to Mengrai Thai. Companions sampled other fare that included the Thom Yum Gum soup, crispy taro rolls (my favourite rolls. Look at how intricate the lattice work is on the wrapper - it is so light in texture, but packs a powerful taro punch), classic Pad Thai, and a Mixed Seafood Curry. All were solid, though I would have to say that the seafood dish was not as fresh as it could have been - and the flavour of that one was by far the weakest of the dishes. I would recommend against ordering that dish solely because I know Sasi must have better dishes on her menu. But my dining companion thoroughly enjoyed her dish.

              Combo C, which included the taro rolls, daily soup, wonton, classic pad Thai: $13.95
              Combo D, choice of either Thom Yum Gum or Pumpkin Soup, tempura shrimp, wonton, #54 or Mixed Seafood curry + dessert (ice cream of your choice): $15.95
              Experience: Priceless.

              Sorry, I couldn't resist.

              Enjoy the photos!

              Lunch-sized Portions:

              Combo D apps: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
              Taro rolls: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
              Combo C apps: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

              Lunch #54: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
              Mixed Seafood Curry: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
              Classic Pad Thai: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

              Coconut Ice Cream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

              Cheers and Happy Eating!