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Bob Likes Thai Food and so do I (Vancouver)

Me, a la carte and her SO TOFTT on Tuesday night, testing the waters at this six-day-old, differently-named Thai resto at 3755 Main near 21st. It replaces Temple of Shanghai. Space is open and spare, with fairly blinding fluorescent lights. The owner, Tai, is a Thai national who worked in the film industry while dreaming about owning a restaurant where he could share his love of his homeland's cuisine. He only has 18 seats right now (COV's rules are weird on this) and no liquor licence (ditto) but we were all impressed enough by his early offerings to vow to return, especially for takeout as it is convenient for the a la cartes.

Most expensive item on the menu (see pic) is $8.50 and prices are lower than the other Thai places in town. We overordered to try more dishes and had a big ol' bag of leftovers. Our sample of the brief menu was as follows: papaya salad (tasty but a hair sweet, nice fruit), tom kha gai (one of my favourite dishes, rich without being cloying, with a little hit of chile that I'm not used to but liked), pork pad ka pow (with thinly sliced rounds of green beans, this was the other fave for me, rather unexpectedly), pad thai (well made with tamarind, I didn't feel the urge to order more limes as I usually do) and finally panang beef (it's the second soup like pic, I found it too sweet and rich but Tai says that's how they eat it in Thailand). He also says they can whip up Thai-style condiments if you ask -- he doesn't like to make them ahead as they don't stay fresh. Rice was nice and hot which I appreciated. We paid $18 each tax and tip in for this repast.

Of note, they are currently open 7 days a week till 9 pm. The phone numbers listed on line are wrong, with one being completely incorrect and the other their home listing.

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  1. The Pad Thai looks delicious!

    1. Thanks for the report, GE. Food looks yum.

      Is Sawasdee still around ?

      The Temple is gone ?? ..... I've been wondering how they stay afloat with local rent increases. They certainly had potential, but didn't know how to market themselves (or clean up their joint, literally). With Long's not far away and now Shanghai Village on Cambie, it might have simply been a slow death for them. Wonder if they'll pop up somewhere else, like say at an Asian mall food court ? :-)

      Shanghai Village
      3250 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2W4, CA

      3 Replies
      1. re: LotusRapper

        Welcome. I am cautiously optimistic. May warrant a Chowdown for special dishes...

        Sawasdee is still there AFAIK. I used to really enjoy many of their dishes but things have gone downhill it seems. Still one server there who deserves the highest award in the land though.

        1. re: grayelf

          Someone told me years ago that Sawasdee was the very first Thai resto in Vancouver. Wonder if anyone knows of that.

          1. re: LotusRapper

            There may have been others before but they disappeared fast.

            Sawasdee was certainly the first to make no concessions for timid Euro-palates and they garnered a lot of positive press for it.

      2. Went back for dinner this past weekend, lured by the promise of good food. We ordered repeats of many of the same dishes that we’d had with Grayelf: papaya salad, pad thai, pork pad ka pow, and also tried the fish cakes. Since Tai had told us on our previous visit that Bob’s makes everything from scratch, we requested that our food be made less sweet and more spicy, and the results suited our tastes wonderfully. The papaya salad was tangy and crunchy, with a hint of heat, while the tamarind flavour came through on the pad thai. I could have done with more chilies (I can always do with more chilies) in the pork pad ka pow, but Mr. a la carte thought it plenty fiery. The fish cakes didn’t do much for me, both in terms of texture and taste but the rest of the food more than made up for this lack. The winner for me was the pad see yew, which is not officially on the menu at present. When Judith suggested it, I balked, overcome with visions of soggy noodles and over cooked gai lan, drenched in a heavy (and usually sickeningly sweet) oyster-based sauce. Not this time. Bob’s version was dryish, with crunchy gai lan and perfectly cooked noodles with a hint of “wok hei.” I would have loved a bit more gai lan (I always love more gai lan) but my guess it that we probably used up the last bit left, since it was an impromptu offer. As promised, Tai whipped up a little bowl of fish sauce with sliced chillies, garlic and lime which complemented both noodle dishes beautifully. I think we will return often.

        P.S. I think their phone issues have been fixed.

        1. How does it compare to Green Basil off Davie St. Grayelf, would you recommend a mini down? I'd be interested in volunteering my belly.

          Agree with Sawasdee. it's taken a turn for the worse since a few years ago.

          6 Replies
          1. re: betterthanbourdain

            a la, I'm iffy on fish cakes too, they seem kinda rubbery often. How does Tai's version compare with Bo's which is also Thai?

            We went again last night and didn't request any heat/taste adjustments. The beef salad ($7.50) was exemplary, the chicken curry subtle and not too rich though I'da liked the eggplant cooked a wee bit more. Papaya salad was good again though I'd ask for it a hair less sweet next time, same with the tom yam goong. The prawns are uniformly good with no javex flavour here which is a plus. Pad thai was as good or better than last visit. We had two apps, a large soup and two mains plus two portions of rice for $45 before tip. And we couldn't quite finish it all among three of us, so good value. Tai is up for a special Chowdown here if we request it, possibly with some Northern Thai influenced dishes (he is a Northern Thai himself).

            Alas, I have yet to make it to Thai Basil, though I hope to go right at 5 pm this Friday to try the krapow, keemao and pad thai there before a 7 pm screening...

            1. re: grayelf

              I'm up for a chowdown...and definitely if we can convince him that Northern Thai is the way to go. (Especially here in Vancouver where mediocre Bangkok Thai food abounds).

              1. re: grayelf

                Haven't had the Bo-cakes, but kinda rubbery describes the fish cakes we had at Bob's perfectly. Haven't made it to Thai Basil either, but am up for a nano down on Friday, if you are...

                1. re: À la carte

                  Rubbery fish cakes and fish balls are "normal." I grew up with this stuff and ate it as streetfood in Asia and they are usually rubbery.

                  1. re: fmed

                    still iso nice balls. imho, cant compare balls here vs in asia..
                    i agree that balls in asia can be rubbery. at least the commercial ones.

                    but alas there are some stalls that make their own balls with better technique.
                    the results are balls with texture and flavor i have yet to find in N America.
                    possibly due the variance in ingredients, labour and experience. could just be the difference in the tap water... :-D

                  2. re: À la carte

                    Though Bo's are a bit rubbery, I've liked them both times I've had 'em. Funnily enough I wasn't partial to his shrimp ones, and I loves me some shrimp.

                    A la, I'll pm you on Ning...

              2. I was here tonight. I had the pad thai and the eggplant grapow. Both were very good and authentic. Just the right balace chili-heat, sour, salt and pungency. I had a long chat with Tai (the owner who is from Northern Thailand) about Thai food. He seems sincere in wanting to serve it authentically. So good news for Main St!

                1. We are setting up a Northern Thai/Issan Chowdown there Nov 01. Go to http://vanchow.ning.com if you are interested in attending.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: fmed

                    i'm interested...but i'm in London!... :)

                    1. re: fmed

                      D$%$ I missed this one.....Issan sausages are so yummy.

                    2. Went for lunch...prices very reasonable, especially for the small bowl of Tom Yum (which wasn't that small at all) at $4.50!! Tom Yum is the criteria I usually judge a Thai place by, this was very tasty, rich and clean. With a plate of pad thai it makes an excellent and affordable lunch. Extra dried chilli and nam pla were brought to accompany. I'm going to be a regular. My hands-down favourite for Tom Yum remains Montris though, to which I have developed a serious addiction.

                      1. I just moved to Vancouver from Calgary (which is barren and lacking in anything resembling good thai) and had read about Bob's here on Chow and decided to give it a shot - and honestly, for the price, quaint location/decor/service and the quality I'd be shocked if you could find better.

                        I had read that Bob's claim to fame is the best pad thai in Vancouver and decided to give it a shot. As an appetizer I had the fish cakes. For mains my two companions had the pad thai, and the green curry with chicken. The fish cakes were different than I was expecting - more fish pancakes than cakes, but they were very good, as was the relish that accompanied them. The red curry in the fish cakes was subtle but present. As soon as our appetizers were done, our mains came out of the kitchen - piping hot. This was my only real complaint about the meal - I was in the mood to sit for awhile and savour my food, I wouldn't have minded more of a wait between the appetizers and the mains. That said, you can't really fault a place for having your food ready and hot. The pad thai had the right balance of components - enough fish sauce, enough tamarind, peanuts, and lime. It was spicy enough to have some warmth, but not overpowering. Everything that came out of the kitchen was hot and delicious. It wasn't even generically 'good' thai food. The food was very good, and thoughtfully made.