tongues on fire - a night at jitlada (longish)
we went to jitlada for the 2nd time this past saturday night. there were 6 of us - my finace and i, my mom and stepdad, and my aunt and uncle. we called about 45 minutes ahead of time and they told my fiance there were other reservations but we would be put on a list and a table would probably be ready when we got there. but when we arrived we were told that's when they would put our names on the list. !?! we ended up waiting over 40 minutes - in the rain - even though there were tables available due to some confusion when one of the younger girls sat couples who walked in after us at the 2 tables next to the 4 top that was leaving, so they couldn't put the tables together. they were nice enough to seat some of us before the other table was cleared since it was obvious that my uncle wasn't doing so well with the cold.
after we were seated there was a long wait for the order, another for the drinks, but our meal was well worth it. i'm used to family run places having slower service, and it was packed by then, i was just concerned since my uncle needed to take meds and had nothing to drink. my uncle and aunt don't eat spicy and aren't as adventurous as the rest of us, but we ordered a cashew chicken dish mild, and a sweet and sour for them, which were both perfectly cooked and really flavorful, not cloying or one dimensional like other versions.
the rest of us ordered to share from the southern menu, all requested "spicy":
coco mango salad - delicious shaved tart green mango, shrimp, cashews, toasted coconut, loads of garlic in a tangy lime and tamarind dressing with the perfect amount of heat. i had talked about this salad before with my mom since i want to serve a version of it at my wedding so we had the whole table analyzing it.
fried morning glory salad, also with shrimp and a similar dressing but with morning glory battered and deep fried, perfectly crunchy and light, better than tempura, a riot of textures.
beef curry with cassia buds - bitter, delicious and complex with layers of flavor and searing heat tempered by the richness of coconut.
lamb with egg noodles in peanut lime sauce - tender chunks of lamb, morning glory here as well, peanuts and cilantro with thin noodles in a rich, delicious sauce, like everything i always wanted pad thai to be
softshell crab in red curry sauce - much better than the last visit due to the increased heat level, and laid atop the sauce rather than coated in it so the batter stayed beautifully crisp
pork belly with sator beans - this was the dish that set us all on fire! we were sweating beforehand but this pushed us over the edge. it was blazing hot and had branches of cassia buds and my fiance made the mistake of popping the whole stem in his mouth and scraping the buds off with his teeth. mom had to get up and walk around to cool off!
as we were eating the proprietress came over and thanked us for waiting even though it took so long for a table. she said she loves her customers and she was so happy to see a family with many generations there. she asked if we had tried the new menu and we pointed to the lamb and the pork belly dishes on the table and she was so excited she clapped her hands and practically jumped up and down. she said after they created the pork belly dish she ate it for 5 days straight.
she was so sweet and genuine, and we were all quite satisfied with our delicious and unusual meal. we were in an endorphin daze. i can't wait to go back and try fried frog's legs, fish balls with egg yolk curry, and the lamb with pumpkin!
I'm glad you liked it! The pork belly dish was definitely incendiary. I had leftovers the next day, too! I loved the fried morning glory dish as well. We didn't have enough people to try the lamb, so I'll have to return soon. It's true that on crowded nights they have some trouble keeping up with the service. As I said in my blog post, it might be better on weeknights. The fish balls with egg yolk stuffed in the middle were wonderful, I didn't think I would like them but they were great, and I don't think they were very spicy either -- it's good to have a balance of dishes.