Reviews | Khao San Thai Kitchen - Thai Restaurant on 17th Ave Calgary

February 21, 2013

Khao San Thai Kitchen
By Kathy Richardier, Swerve
avenue magazine
Khao San Thai Kitchen | Red chicken curry is a classic Thai dish where the heat is balanced with cool coconut milk.
The food at Khao San consists of exciting, contemporary versions of Thai favourites.
Photograph by: Colleen De Neve/Calgary Herald , Swerve
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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.

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Red chicken curry is a classic Thai dish where the heat is balanced with cool coconut milk.

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.

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Red chicken curry is a classic Thai dish where the heat is balanced with cool coconut milk.

“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!

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Red chicken curry is a classic Thai dish where the heat is balanced with cool coconut milk.

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.

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Red chicken curry is a classic Thai dish where the heat is balanced with cool coconut milk.

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.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

 

Friday August 28, 2012

New Restaurant: Khao San
by John Gilchrist
avenue magazine

This elegant Thai restaurant adds more dimension to the rich 17th Avenue dining scene.

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Red chicken curry is a classic Thai dish where the heat is balanced with cool coconut milk.

Red chicken curry is a classic Thai dish where the heat is balanced with cool coconut milk.

Where once wild horses roamed, now golden Thai dragons dwell. JaroBlue, the lively, 17th Avenue tapas bar, has gone away and in its place is the new Khao San Thai Kitchen.

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Khao San Thai Kitchen seats 45 people and also has a small, cozy patio out front.

Khao San Thai Kitchen seats 45 people and also has a small, cozy patio out front.

JaroBlue was a sleek, stylish, narrow place where huge photos of wild Sable Island horses covered the walls. When JaroBlue closed shop, they took the horses with them but left most everything else. So Samphan Treeyachat and Rungroj Suntiwan replaced them with murals of jewelled, golden dragons frolicking on a black background.

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Tom Yam soup with prawns

Tom Yam soup with prawns

Treeyachat and Suntiwan, both of whom hail from northeastern Thailand, met while working at the venerable Thai Sa-On, a classic Thai restaurant in the Beltline. Treeyachat handled service while Suntiwan took care of kitchen business. A few years later, they found themselves working together at the Calgary Golf & Country Club and began talking about their own restaurant. So when the opportunity arose, they took it.

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Khao San offers a Thailand-wide menu of lively soups (Tom Yam) and salads (Som Tum), curries (red, green, yellow and Panang), noodles (pad Thai) and on and on, most of which are available with meats or seafood or as vegetarian options. But one dish jumped out on my first visit to Khao San — the khao soi.

(Brief diversion: khao san means “milled rice” in Thai and indicates the importance of rice in Thai cuisine. Khao soi means “cut rice” which is used to make dough for noodles. It is also a dish that is served mostly in northern Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai.)

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Sweet and sour prawns

Sweet and sour prawns

Khao San’s khao soi is a creamy, curry-and chili-infused coconut broth that by itself is addictive. It’s loaded with noodles, both fresh and crispy-fried, and served with pickled cabbage, fresh shallots and lime and chili oil. A squeeze of lime, a spoonful of shallots and pickles and the khao soi is filled with bright flavours and textures. Slices of chicken breast and a whole chicken thigh add a light meatiness to the dish but caution, only serious hotheads need the extra blast of chili oil. This is an outstanding, richly flavoured soup.

Khao San Thai Kitchen | Rainbow fruit salad

Rainbow fruit salad

In contrast, the shrimp salad rolls are an exercise in delicate flavours and textures. Thin rice pancakes are rolled around crunchy shrimp, fresh greens and soft vermicelli. They come with a sweet chili sauce, quite different from the salty nuoc mam served with Vietnamese salad rolls. As different as dragons are from horses.

1314 17 Ave. S.W., 587-353-2668, khaosanthaikitchen.ca

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