Khao San Thai Kitchen
By Kathy Richardier, Swerve
The food at Khao San consists of exciting, contemporary versions of Thai favourites.
Photograph by: Colleen De Neve/Calgary Herald , Swerve.
The Man and I used to hang out at the JAROBlue restaurant bar yakking with our barkeep friend Travis Whitney. After a good run of five years, JARO closed, Travis went off to Candela, and we were sad.
However, after a super meal at Khao San Thai Kitchen, the new restaurant in the JAROBlue space, we’re not sad, we’re happy. There’s nothing like good food found to take the place of good food lost. And we’re not the only ones who know this. For a relatively new restaurant, Khao San was abuzz with happy diners on a Sunday eve.
The owners are alumni of the venerable Thai Sa-On, so you know you’re going to find food that will make you smile. I even heard The Man sigh happily while eating the braised short ribs in massaman curry ($21). The big meaty ribs were fork tender, the curry full of sumptuous flavour, with just a touch of heat so that The Man declared, “It wakes me up, but doesn’t frighten me.” That says a lot about the food.
“Sumptuous” was a word that sprang to mind a lot while eating this elegant, satisfying fare. The curries are mouthfuls of flavour, but they’re not spiked with wee, fiery chilies that blow the top of your head off as in other Thai food we’ve had.
The panang curry with pork ($16) was another seductive dish, as was a more unusual dish not regularly found in our Thai eating experiences. Khao soi gai consists of noodles and chicken in a soupy yellow curry coconut milk broth jazzed up with kaffir lime leaves. Topped with fried noodle “hair,” it’s served with hot sauce and pickled cabbage, shallots and lime on the side ($16). Perfect!
But before we were seduced by Thai curries we started our meal with a fresh tongue-tingling green papaya salad topped with plump prawns ($12) and just enough chilies in the dressing. Corn fritters, packed with kernels, reminded us of pralines, because they were fried to a sweet caramelization around the edges ($7). Mmmm. Seared scallops arrived presented on Chinese spoons atop a bright tasting pineapple cucumber salsa shot through with lime ($12). More mmmm.
But perhaps the best of the beginnings was the grilled lemongrass squid ($9), presented whole and full of the smoky grilled flavour we all love. The spicy seafood sauce served on the side for dipping is a nice complement.
This is really exciting, interesting food, much of it contemporary presentations of familiar Thai fare. We really appreciated that the dishes didn’t have fiery chilies lurking in them. If you wanted, you could turn up the temperature with chili oil on the side.
But we weren’t finished yet. Patties of warm, sweet sticky rice are presented with an eggy custard on top ($5) to pop into your happy mouth. Most fun of all is a young coconut—meat intact, water and pulp semi-frozen—served with a straw and a spoon to scoop the coconut off the sides of the shell ($7). This’ll keep you busy for a while as you enjoy the good coffee.
1314 17th Ave. S.W., 587-353-2668, khaosanthaikitchen.ca.
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