Linda Modern Thai (Don Mills Centre)
I was there last summer and made the following comment on Chowhound:
“Thai-style Fish & Chips was also a very pleasant surprise. The chips were sweet potato fries and the sauce (vinegar substitute) was a chili-tamarind version. The fish itself came in a crispy, grease-free beer batter - the gimmick being that Singha Beer was used (hoppier than the more-often-encountered English Beer batters). “
Back again last night and among their current ‘specials’ was ‘Clams Baked In Red Curry’ a superb riff on the almost extinct dish ‘escargots in a butter & garlic sauce’ – yes the one with half a dozen escargots in a 6-depression platter. Indeed the clams were baked in butter and garlic – but the clams were tastier than most escargots and the addition of the spices made this dish sing.
When Linda’s (old name) was downtown it was one of my regular haunts (I considered it a ‘Thai Bistro’) but the journey to Don Mills took it off my radar, as the room wasn’t as cozy and it adjusted to meet what appeared to be a different demographic. However, with all the discussions on ‘authentic’ Thai revolving around traditional Thai food, I (and maybe others) lost sight of the broader objective to have great-tasting food (not that the ‘authentic’ newer places don’t provide that).
But I’ve now had these two ‘hybrid’ dishes that really excited me. No, it’s not ‘traditional’ Thai (although many of those dishes still appear on the menu at Linda) but this development shows how dishes can evolve into a type of cuisine that expands the dining experience As a comparison, I initially found Vij in Vancouver to be ‘bastardized’ Indian – he uses Indian spicing with western (local) ingredients – it’s NOT Indian as we used to know it, but still pays homage to the spicing.
In a similar vein, I have seen an evolution of BBQ in Ontario – no we can’t do a decent imitation of true Southern style, but Mad Michael near Midland has evolved his own version (and his cornbread is fantastic) and I’m almost praying for Portuguese Bread to substitute for the ‘dreaded’ (IMO) Wonderbread that’s a staple down south (and thank you Black Camel for doing this well; and Stack for offering Sourdough Toast and Crusty Panini).
But back to Linda Modern Thai. Give the clams a try (available as a special for $7 during February and also part of their prix fixe at $25).
And let me know if you disagree that there’s a place for this hybrid cuisine. With support, maybe we can bring back the fish and chips as well – and who knows what else they will develop?