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Mengrai Gourmet Thai?

Anybody been to Mengrai Gourmet Thai? If so what was your take? I just noticed the high number of gushing reviews about it on OpenTable, and have become curious.

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Mengrai
82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

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  1. I went a while ago. Our server gave us the impression that he had never worked in a restaurant before. He just always seemed confused and not really caring. I find the food at Sukhothai ten times better. If I remember correctly, our bill was around $65 per person, I think that included tip and I had a beer. What Mengrai Thai does is present themselves as Gourmet (fine dining?) Thai, which means you pay four times as much for mediocre food to eat on a white table cloth and have a server. My advice is skip this place and go to Sukhothai instead, its just a couple of streets north.

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    Mengrai
    82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

    Sukhothai
    274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

    11 Replies
    1. re: dubchild

      i think you are way off when you say it mediocre thai.
      its definitely the most interesting take on Thai that Toronto has. the food is unique and interesting and is visually stunning.

      the restaurant itself is quite nice. in all, a great dining experience.

      i do agree with you about the price. it is not cheap. but its also definitely not Salad King.

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      Salad King
      340 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M5B1R7, CA

      1. re: atomeyes

        Food served in a hollowed out pineapple impressed me when I was twelve.

      2. re: dubchild

        $65 per person is kind of high with just a bottle of beer, what did you order? I've had dinner there many times for less, including wine. I agree the service is spotty - and that white handkerchief tied around the neck of an opened wine bottle is tacky and unprofessional here in North America. But the food is, IMHO, one of the, if not the, best Thai in the city. Mengrai may be gourmet food from a Thai perspective, but it's not fine dining and nor is it priced like fine dining restaurants like George, Splendido or Kaji.

        And about "food served in a hollowed out pineapple," I believe this form of presentation is acceptable in Thailand and I don't see how this is any different than food served in a seashell at American seafood restaurants, for example.

        1. re: syoung

          It was a while ago, we both did a set menu at around $39 pp. They asked if we wanted to upgrade our dessert choices to those that were on the menu, I think this was an extra $5 pp (I could be wrong). This was a big mistake, desserts were really bad, we had, I think, a lemongrass flavoured creme brulee, the eggs were scrambled.
          If the food was around $45, add a beer, tax and tip = around $65.
          I don't find any problem with serving food in a pineapple, I'm just not impressed by the presentation. I didn't find any of the food visually stunning.
          To Graydyn who posted this, don't take my word on this. Check both places out yourself. I more than welcome having more voices comparing these two places.

          1. re: dubchild

            its funny because when Susur Lee served his lychee in a wooden boat that was cooled with dry ice, people such as yourself would have applauded it as being interesting and cool presentation.

            presentation help to visually sell the food, but flavours speak for themselves. a white tablecloth and a unique-to-Toronto presentation didn't seem to impress you and that's why there is Salad King (especially the pre-reno Salad King). to knock the presentation - and most of the food is put together with great detail - is silly. and yes, you are paying for presentation and decor.

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            Susur
            601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

            Salad King
            340 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M5B1R7, CA

            1. re: dubchild

              While I appreciate the challenge to try both, I'm not in a position to waste time on Mengrai while it's not getting a general thumbs up. The consensus here seems to be that the food at Sukothai is better but Mengrai has better decor. Frankly, I'm not driving all the way downtown for fancy table cloths.

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              Mengrai
              82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

              Sukothai Restaurant
              3115 Winston Churchill Blvd, Mississauga, ON L5L2W1, CA

              1. re: graydyn

                I don't think it's quite as simple as all that.

                Sukhothai has its detractors, too. I wouldn't say there's a consensus on either restaurant. Some love it; some don't. People have posted on other threads that they just don't get what's so great about Sukhothai.

                In my opinion, it wouldn't be fair to say that Mengrai is only "fancy table cloths". I have had some exceptional meals there, and if you search the board, you will find others saying the same thing. If you go to Sukhothai and are not prepared to do the phone negotiation thing, you will find their menu fairly limited, maybe not the first time, but the second and third time.

                I definitely feel they are both worth a try, and that's not about table cloths.

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                Mengrai
                82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

                Sukhothai
                274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                1. re: graydyn

                  graydyn, I'm not sure how you can come to the conclusion of any consensus on this board that Sukothai is better than Mengrai. As Full tummy says, Sukothai's menu is very limited, almost like a take out menu. Mengrai's menu is much more elaborate with much more interesting selections beyond the spring rolls and Pad Thai. I would suggest you try both and make up your own mind.

                  1. re: graydyn

                    graydyn, I like your attitude, lol. Personally, IMHO I feel that all those who pan Sukhothai are great. Maybe it will be less busy for me the next time I go in.

                    I have never had such a mind-blowingly good experience ever when it comes to Thai food. Simply outstanding. Nuit could be cooking at a high end restaurant and charging exhorbitant amounts of money for the quality that goes into her food.

                    To all those who complain about service, a friend of mine once said: "fast, cheap and good, pick two, you can't have all three"

                    For what you get at Sukhothai, it's really worth the wait.

                    All I will say is, make sure you carefully choose how spicy you want your dish. I find they are a bit timid with the spicing and it can dramatically improve the flavour of their curries.

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                    Sukhothai
                    274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                    1. re: currycue

                      Good point!

                      A 3* at Salad King (say) is significantly 'hotter' than a 3 * at Sukhothai.

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                      Salad King
                      340 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M5B1R7, CA

                      Sukhothai
                      274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                      1. re: currycue

                        Yeah, I got a medium and it wasn't really too spicy at all. Next time I will get the hot option.

              2. Have had two wine dinners there and Alan was very accommodating. The food is excellent, best Thai in the city I've had.

                1. We've been to Mengrai a number of times and always enjoyed it. The food is great, especially the fish dishes (if there's a fish special, get it) and the dishes from the front part of the menu. The only thing that was disappointing was a Chinese-style dish a friend ordered from the last page of the menu, for some reason. Obviously, with a Thai chef, stick to the Thai food!

                  The service there has always been warm and friendly, though I will admit that for the price point they can be a bit oddly scatterbrained. Nothing disastrous, though, and definitely worth a visit in my opinion. I've yet to try this famous Sukhothai, but Mengrai is head and shoulders above the rest of the Thai I've had in Toronto.

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                  Mengrai
                  82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

                  1. Went there in late summer and was not overly impressed. The food was ok, but I've had better at a lower price point (e.g. at Ivory Thailand). I found the service to be quite scatterbrained as well, having to ask for the bill several times. I didn't see any compelling reason to go back anytime soon. Just ok.

                    1. Lovely, friendly people.
                      Food is erratic and they tend to hustle the more expensive dishes.
                      Service is a disaster - always!

                      Better food at Sukhothai.
                      'Finer' dining at Linda's.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: estufarian

                        I agree. Lovely, friendly people. Horrible, all-over-the-place service (I recall a comment that it seems like the servers have never waited tables before - I'd have to agree.). The food has failed to impress me for the last three times I've been (most recently this past weekend). I will stick to Sukhothai for Nuit's delicious food (not to mention much better value for money)!

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                        Sukhothai
                        274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                      2. Been many times because a former co-worker's family is related to the owners. Degrees of separation - so I can't really comment on the service - ours was fantastic, as expected due to the connections.
                        As for the food - it is definitely better than mediocre. Different from most thai restaurants in Toronto. Salad King it is not. But I do agree that Sukhothai is also worth a visit if you're in that area.

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                        Salad King
                        340 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M5B1R7, CA

                        Sukhothai
                        274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                        1. Impressed with the shrimp appetizer and the curried fish dish. Very unimpressed by their Thai curries though. Sukhothai does similar or better quality for a fraction of the price, agreed. It's just nowhere near as formal (if that's important to you)

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                          Sukhothai
                          274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                          1. I have thoroughly enjoyed some of the meals I've eaten at Mengrai. I was there a few nights ago and felt the street-style Pad Thai was bland, though. Service has been spotty in the past, but I have to say that my last visit the server was very professional and efficient. It seemed to me, looking around the room, that the servers seemed to be doing a better job than before. Is that possible?

                            Whether to choose Mengrai or Sukhothai would partially be determined by priorities. Sukhothai has some delicious food, though even their food has been debated on this board. It is very reasonably priced, but the service is a bit iffy there, too, depending on staffing, and they have a small number of tables in a space that is quite rough around the edges. Mengrai Thai's menu is longer, and they have a number of fish options (I don't recall any fish dishes on Sukhothai's menu), it is at a higher price-point, though, but the atmosphere is far more pleasant, if that is an issue. It's perhaps the prettiest Thai restaurant I've eaten in. And, it is definitely possible to eat for under $65.00/pp. Here's their menu:

                            http://www.mengraithai.com/resources/...

                            And Sukhothai's menu:
                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/jevonmac...

                            Both places have been praised and panned. If you go to Mengrai and/or Sukhothai, let us know your thoughts.

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                            Mengrai
                            82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

                            Sukhothai
                            274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                            17 Replies
                            1. re: Full tummy

                              We have eaten at both.
                              I prefer Mengrai for the variety, and subtlety of flavor.,
                              And certainly a much more peasant atmosphere
                              Sukhothai makes an an excellent Pad Thai.
                              I prefer their Sukhothai Pad Thai, but find the curries too sweet and too wet.
                              We have tried Sukhothai's soups as well ..same complaint far too sweet
                              There is an overuse of coconut in most of their dishes.

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                              Mengrai
                              82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

                              Sukhothai
                              274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                              1. re: erly

                                I'm not sure I understand what you mean by the curry is too wet. Can you explain.

                                1. re: dubchild

                                  too much sauce for our taste.
                                  Ingredients are swimming in it.
                                  Also do not understand the giant inedible stalks of lemongrass floating around in the soups and curries.
                                  As for the staff, they are so nice, that I wish that I was excited about the food, especially after all of the glowing reviews.
                                  We did give it two tries and wanted to love it, but didn't

                                  1. re: erly

                                    it's funny because i've felt that some dishes didn't have enough sauce! on top of that they are much thicker than others i've had which in my mind wouldn't make they very wet.

                              2. re: Full tummy

                                Nuit will do a number of fantastic off-menu dishes if you call ahead, including some amazing fish! We order from Sukhothai about once every week or two, and typically order half on the menu, half off. There is a lot more variety to be had than what you see on their menu if you plan ahead!

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                                Sukhothai
                                274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                                1. re: drjolt

                                  Thanks, drjolt, I appreciate that she will do this. It would be great if she put some of these dishes on the menu, though, as planning ahead in this way is more complication than many of us wish to go through for a dinner out that may not have been planned that much in advance, in the first place. Many people, myself included, are not used to, or comfortable with, the idea of calling the cook/chef, in advance, and negotiating on the phone what will be served and at what price.

                                  Alternatively, to make these offerings more accessible, they could actually make up a list of the dishes they are willing to prepare, if ordered in advance, and how much notice is required. I have seen this done in other restaurants for things like suckling pig, etc. I really don't know why, as busy as they are, they are setting themselves up for an increasing number of people keeping them on the phone to find out what they can do, when I'm sure they need to be cooking. I mean, they don't stand at the side of the table and tell everyone what's on the menu. They have a printed menu. It's more convenient. It reduces the amount of labour needed to sell their product. It is more comfortable for the diner, who doesn't need to listen to all the options and try to remember the first one, while listening to the last. Why not print up a list of all these "secret" dishes that need to be discovered and ordered by phone if one is to have them?

                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/651405

                                    Chow!
                                    HL.

                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                      Fair enough. It is hard to know how long they will keep up the off-menu ordering if it gets very popular. I'm not sure how much more they can handle at this point! My impression has been that the menu is limited to reflect what the kitchen in its current incarnation can handle. On busier nights, we sometimes see more than 10 people crammed into that kitchen to get the orders out. It seems only a matter of time before they pack up and move to a bigger space. The demand certainly seems to warrant it.

                                      I've only been to Mengrai once and left very unimpressed. I found the food to be okay but service was poor and prices were too high for the quality.

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                                      Mengrai
                                      82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

                                      1. re: Full tummy

                                        from my understanding of nuits dedication to quality i imagine that their menu is limited because she wants to have everything fresh and available for regular orders. to have a second menu or to expand the menu would imply that all these ingredients would also have to be available and at the level of quality and freshness she wants. i doubt they think this would be easy.

                                        as for off menu ordering... i hardly ever call them to negotiate. i do this in person and either during the late lunch/early dinner time or at the end of the night at say 10:30pm. i understand this cannot be done by everyone all the time, i've only done this a handful of times myself, but once this first experience is had then it gets easier. why? because i find out which dishes can actually be made on a regular basis on short notice (no whole fishes but wild beef and a shrimp version of the breaded tofu/chicken appetizer can be done). i've also seen people they've gotten to know essentially show up and get fed. not several courses nor large groups but a couple dishes not on the menu. the only reason it helps to get to know them is because they're worried about satisfying your tastes and don't want to put in cilantro/peanut/extra spice out of concern for their average crowd.

                                        the idea here really is just to maximize your experience. if you're bored with the menu there's always a work around. i figure i can always ask and as long as it isn't unreasonable then there's a good chance i'll get it but haven't any issues with hearing a "no" either.

                                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                          I appreciate that, but location is not convenient for me, so dropping by to chat them up is out of the question. Even if it were convenient for me to do so, I'm not sure that I would...

                                          While I appreciate the menu is limited for the reasons you stated (and I didn't think anything different), there also isn't any reason why they can't provide a list of items that may be available with notice.

                                          While HarryLloyd pointed me to the special menu they made up for you and a group of Chowhounds, I had already read this at the time, and noted that there were only a small selection of dishes (shrimp, beef salad, steamed fish, etc.) that aren't on the regular menu. I have no idea whether this is an exhaustive list of the additional dishes available by pre-ordering, though I suspect not.

                                          If the owners of Sukhothai want to promote their customized menus, then they should at least say so (by posting a sign or providing a notice on their menu, or offering a "tasting menu" on their menu, with advance notice provided), but in the meantime it feels like I've learned a little secret on Chowhound, and I may even feel uncomfortable sitting in that dining room being served special dishes while others are ordering off the menu and have no clue what is so special about me. That may seem strange, and I understand that others are not as reticent as me (which is clearly a good thing in this case).

                                          Someone like me will show up once in a while when I feel a hankering for the stuff they have on the menu, and that's just reality. And, probably is better for them, too, since clearly if they can only manage such a small menu on a regular basis, they don't really want all their customers requesting off menu items, or else why have such a limited menu in the first place?

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                                          Sukhothai Restaurant
                                          11 4th St E, Cornwall, ON K6H2H7, CA

                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                            i think we should clarify something... they never were looking to pomote customized menus and probably won't ever. the idea for a special menu was by one of my main dining companions and myself. we decided to share the information that sukhothai was willing to do this... with hesitation because someone who saw our first meal ordered one up for the next day (which wasn't appropriate time wise). perhaps they don't want to to do this, but i check in with them every so often to make sure they're ok and not stressed.

                                            i like it when a chef is cooking for "themselves" and welcome the opportunities to try it. all this sukhothai off-menu stuff stemmed from that and isn't the only place that i've asked for a different menu from.

                                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                              "they never were looking to promote customized menus and probably won't ever"

                                              My point exactly. That's why I won't request a customized menu; I figure if a business wants to offer something, in most cases they'll let you know. What I don't understand is why others are promoting Sukhothai's customized menus, as though it's a given, as though the owners are happy to accommodate if you only ask...

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                                              Sukhothai
                                              274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                                              1. re: Full tummy

                                                because they are.

                                                those who have mentioned it have either been to one or talked to nuit about doing one. she's always excited about it.

                                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                  Sorry, I find this very confusing. They are so happy to provide customized menus, but they don't want to promote it? That just doesn't make sense to me.

                                                  While I am sure they enjoy the appreciation they are receiving for their food, what that tells me is that they are not looking to have a large percentage of their customers requesting special menus. Or else, they would provide for more variety on their menu, which basically amounts to the same thing.

                                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                                    I'm not sure what the confusion is here. A restaurant offers 'specials' to their regular customers that aren't generally offered to walk-ins. That happens hundreds of times daily across Toronto. If a walk-in sees the dish - then they're happy to prepare it for them too - but not generally at peak hours when a more 'assembly-line' approach is needed to achieve prompter service times.
                                                    What's the problem?

                                                    1. re: estufarian

                                                      The problem is that this opportunity is being posted to Chowhound, as if any and all of us are welcome to do the same (be treated as regulars). I would not consider myself a regular customer at Sukhothai, nor am I assuming, would the vast majority of readers of this thread.

                                                      If I shop somewhere over and over again, and one day I request the owner special order something for me, and he/she is happy to do it because I'm a regular customer who has developed a relationship with him/her, and now he/she is doing something *special* for me, because I give him/her lots of business, should I now post it to the Internet telling all people far and wide that they can make the same arrangement?

                                                      So, by posting it to the Internet, on Chowhound, the offer is being made, on behalf of Sukhothai to all potential customers, not just "regulars". That is the problem I have, and that is why I am trying to ascertain whether this is something special for regulars, or whether this is something the owners want to be doing for any and everyone.

                                                      -----
                                                      Sukhothai
                                                      274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                                                      1. re: Full tummy

                                                        i'm not quite sure how to explain this any further. yes, as a regular and for those who also are it is EASIER for us to go in and ask for these special dishes. BUT i haven't known nuit nor jeff to rebuff anyone else for it either, though their main concerns are slow times/days vs busy ones and advance notice. nuit is excited, beyond excited, sometimes when i ask her about doing these meals. i get to hear about how she's been quite literally dreaming of dishes and thinking about the next time i come in and what she could make.

                                                        when i asked about this i was hardly a regular yet, just enthusiastic. i've asked other businesses of various forms if they can do special orders for me and am readily waiting for a "no" answer most of the time. i do not hold it against them but if they do pull through then i will make an effort to put them on my regular rotation and recommend people to them.

                                                        let me reiterate again, all the people recommending this "special meal" have been to a "special meal"... whether it was as a newbie to sukhothai or as a regular. they feel comfortable recommending it because of the enthusiasm shown by the restaurant. just because they don't have it on a regular menu doesn't mean they don't want to do it. i make it very easy by giving weeks of notice and carte blanche, not all newbies to the restaurant may do that and that is where it might be more difficult to control.