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Maenam Thai - best in Vancouver?

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  • Philx May 27, 2009 01:28 PM

I was able to try a couple of dishes from Maenam- the thai replacement of Gastropad. I can report that both dishes provided the complex mixtures of sweet, sour and spicy tastes typical of authentic thai food. One was Phad Thai but it was not the tomato sauce version so common in Vancouver. Instead, it contained the tangy tamarind/fish sauce flavour layering common in Thailand with the noodles cooked just right. The Mussaman Chicken was a curry dish with a satisfying bite and real longans. Both dishes were about $13 for lunch which is high by Vancouver standards but so was the quality compared to those standards. I bet the cost of ingredients for both dishes was similar to an average Thai restaurant but the execution was much better and I guess that is what would justify the price difference, not to mention the Kits rent. http://www.maenam.ca/

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  1. Thanks for the early report on Maenam. I'm really looking forward to trying it out.

    1. It sounds like nearly the exact same lunch I had at Maenam on tuesday, but I also added in the Thai sausages (which were slightly sweet but oh so good).... this was WAY too much food (on purpose) but made a great eat later.

      Nothing on the lunch menu is above $12 and I would have to disagree with the ingredients being of the same quality of other Thai restaurants in town. The noodles for the pad thai are all 'fresh' (which I assume means made in house... they said that they are the only people in town to do this). Some of their meat is from local farms as well.

      The Mussaman Curry was easily the standout for me. It had litchi's in it, which at first kind of scared me (because of the sweetness), but it really added a lot (I'm really trying not to say, "balance" because that's what everybody says... but, that's exactly what it was). Just a great curry.

      Looking forward to exploring more of the menu. Open until 2 AM too!

      6 Replies
      1. re: Cancuk

        Hey Cancuk: I agree that the quality was highr but I am not sure the cost would be that much different. For example thigh meat was used in the chicken dish but I have had curry dishes at other Thai restaurants that used more costly chicken breast meat but were not nearly as successful.. A whole lot of flavour and subtlety can be added by the chef through proper cooking techniques and application of seasoning at very little cost. There is a safe hand at work in the kitchen there for sure.

        1. re: Philx

          However: The difference in cost between a regular (ie factory chicken) and the organic chicken (probably from Polderside) that Maenam uses is a lot greater than the difference between thigh and breast. It's also a good thing they used thigh in a stew as breast just becomes dry and stringy.

          Thanks for the reviews guys. Now I'm really anxious to head over there.

          1. re: fmed

            I heard they were doing a soft opening a couple days before their announced opening so I called ahead to see and sure enough they were. I wanted to try some of the more typical dishes just to compare, so we got the roti, green papaya salad, satays, pad thai and the siamese watercress. Thought everything was great, especially the pad thai, soo good! Perfectly cooked noodles, they had such a good chew to them! I saw on the menu that it said fresh rice noodles so I asked our server if they were made in house, she said they weren't but maybe she was mistaken? Will definitely go back to try some of his other dishes!

            1. re: alwaysroom4dessert

              The rice noodles they used were probably packaged - 'fresh' as opposed to 'dry'. It does make a big difference in texture and flavour.

              1. re: fmed

                Update...You can't buy this noodle off the shelf.

                Maenam specially imports their fresh pad thai rice noodles from a specialty Thai Noodle maker in Los Angeles. They looked all over California in search of the best noodles they can buy.

        2. re: Cancuk

          hmmm, this is clearly on my list for my next trip to Vancouver...

        3. Very very enjoyable. Four of us dined on Saturday night and had a great time.

          Started with:
          Chicken satays - standard satay, but the peanut sauce was great!
          Hot and Sour seafood sour - Lovely slighty lemony flavor, light coloured but very falvour broth...very enjoyable, would get in an instand
          Pad Thai - Havn't had a lot of good phad thai's to compare to, but I loved it.
          David Thompson 3 flavour fish - exactly as the description, "equally sweet, salty and sour"
          Mussaman chicken - prety sure it was described as sort of sweet....sure it wasn't as spicy as the 3 flavour fish, but it wasn't really sweet. That being said, definately a great dish that I would order again and again.

          Of the 5 plates we tried, there is not one I wouldn't order again. I look forward to going again soon and working at the rest of the menu!

          1. went last night. tom yum goong was a classic street style light broth, very good but I still prefer the much richer version at Montri's. Also had green papaya salad, hanger steak salad, 3 flavor fish and paenang beef. All was good, especially the fish and the paenang beef, definitely spiced western rather than thai heat, we needed a pot of nam prik on the side to kick things up a bit. My only complaint is that portion size is a bit on the small side. The paenang beef was a goodly amount but split among three the rest of the dishes yielded barely a taste for each person. Cost was a very reasonable $35/person, but I think for my regular Thai fix I will be staying with Montri's.

            5 Replies
            1. re: jcolvin

              a very positive review in this weeks straight

              1. re: vandan

                hmm, i just searched for and read that review: i found the review sort of annoying and hyperbolic...

                i haven't been to Maenam yet, and i'm optimistic that it's good or even great...but judging by it's menu and location, it's a totally different kind of restaurant than Sripraphai in Queens, NY, which the reviewer cattily suggests is inferior to Maenam...Sripraphai has a huge menu, and it started out as a grungy restaurant for Thai's (though it now attracts plenty of farang chowhounds and has renovated from total grunge to middle of the road)...Maenam seems to be trying to bring authentic Thai food to non-Thai Vancouver in a nice setting while incorporating local ingredients...sort of apples and oranges...

                Question for people who have been there: how is the somdam, and do they include dried shrimp in it?...(farang-oriented Thai places often skip the dried shrimp, an ommission which i consider unpardonable)...

                1. re: Simon

                  We liked Maenam a lot despite a 25 minute wait for our 8:30 pm reservation two Fridays ago (we each received a half pour of a very nice riesling for our trouble). The room is quite inviting and though it does tend to be a bit loud when full it is still possible to carry on a conversation. If I came with one person I would sit at the bar, I think.

                  On to what we had: The $3 roti was a stingy portion, too thin, with dull and very oily peanut sauce for an added $2, and the three flavour fish ($17) had one flavour -- sweet, though the fish itself was properly cooked -- no salty or sour as promised on the menu. A miss for all my DCs, again of course based on only one visit so it could have been an off night. It did have some deep fried herbs (Thai basil?) that added to the dish. I look forward to visiting again but I'd be unlikely to order either dish again.

                  The panang beef curry ($16) was delightful, the hangar steak ($13) flavourful though heavy on the lime and therefore a bit simplistic and I prefer the ground rice to be stirred in, and the pad thai ($13) as noted elsewhere is high quality. Spice levels were uniformly low though there was enough bite to make you realize you were eating Thai food. I had the Siam Sun Ray cocktail ($10, vodka, lime, chile, ginger, coconut juice, soda) which went very well with the food. I've never been a huge fan of wine with most Asian foods and not a big beer drinker so this combo was very welcome.

                  Spacing entirely on the dessert, though I do recall it had black sesame and fried shallots in it. Whatever it was, I'd order it again. Very tasty. I'll post a bad photo so you can ID it if you decide to try it :-).

                  We will be back to try the halibut, duck and other items.

                  Simon, they don't list dried shrimp on the som tam but it may be there. Anyone know?

                  Here's photos of the drink, the hangar steak, the pad thai and the fish...

                   
                   
                   
                   
                  1. re: grayelf

                    And the roti, panang beef and mystery dessert...

                     
                     
                     
                  2. re: Simon

                    Great insight and interesting perspective Simon.

                    I'm totally with you on the omission of dried shrimp in dumbed-down Thai food. (And any fermented fish product really....this is usually the first thing many SE Asian restaurants eliminate or reduce from their dishes to appeal to local palates here.)

                    I still have not been to Maenam but am eager do have a meal there soon. (We considered popping in tonight after a Chowdown next door at Fuel.)

              2. So we went and loved (most of) it. The cocktails were awesome. The one with ginger and coconut water tasted lovely on its own and also with the apps. We started with crispy oysters and a nice spicy dip as well as the green papaya salad. Both excellent and the latter had dried shrimp. I'd always kind of avoided those but they added a lot. Then we had three of the larger dishes, generous for two people but we figured we'd take leftovers home. Not an issue. The three flavour fish was sweeeeet but also a little spice. Overall very yummy. The pad thai was likewise sweet but in that case I thought far too sweet and I couldn't quite catch the tamarind in there. Also a little gloppy. Husband loved it but it wasn't my fave: perhaps the combo with the fish was just too much sugar for dinner although the Singha washed it down quite nicely. The shrimp salad on the other hand was nice and spicy and sour and salty with fish sauce with lots of herbs (mint cilantro etc.). By this time we were quite done, but the server, in what I thought was a shameless case of upselling, convinced us to have the chocolate pot de creme. The best dessert ever! It had tamarind ice cream and a salty crust and was beautiful and rich and well, salty.

                A fun evening.

                4 Replies
                1. re: waver

                  I have only had lunch there where I had pad thai, the sausages, and the roti...not enough for a full evaluation of the place. My thoughts so far:

                  The pad thai noodles had a great authentic texture (chewy, glutinous) and "tangle"...but the seasoning wasn't quite right to me. The tamarind-based sauce was too subtle and didn't give it the bite I would have liked in both the chili-heat and sour dimensions. It think it should have been saltier and funkier from the nam pla. (Most SE Asian food when reinterpreted here in the West is just not salty enough for me and is often missing the fermented notes - maybe have some condiments at the table?). It was also too gloopy overall. Additional point for slicing the limes the "proper" way.

                  The sour sausages were great. It's a must-order. The dipping sauce was very good.

                  The roti was not good at all. Roti is one of those dishes that requires a great deal of experience to get right. It should have been lighter and thinner. It was dense and oily. Other people that have dined here have commented to me about the roti. If they can't get it right, they should pull it off the menu as it is not even close to the way it's should be.

                  I'll have to try the fish and the curries soon.

                   
                   
                   
                   
                  1. re: fmed

                    hi fmed...the fact that they get the sour sausages right is a good sign...looking forward to trying this place whenever i make it to Vancouver next...

                  2. re: waver

                    hi waver...glad you liked the dried shrimp ("kung haang" in Thai)...thanks for the review, so i know what to expect if i go there on my next Vancouver trip...

                    1. re: Simon

                      When I went with my friend, we had a fabulous meal. My dining partner had the delicious Thai sausage and flavourful shrimp salad and I the halibut green curry. It was quite spicy but divine. To finish off, the doughnuts and chocolate pot de crème. Fabulous!