And am I the last to know about the tiny little Bangkok Thai Deli at 315 University Avenue (651-224-4300), or am I helping fill up the “empty tank” feeling many of us have every time we contemplate the local Thai food scene? I am bored silly with all the pablum spooned out by the local bevy of well trodden, often highly touted Thai venues. They all the serve the same stuff, and much of it is ordinary at best! As with the majority of Japanese restaurants in the TC, local Thai restaurants all seem to have the same menu, season and plate food in the same style, and take very few risks. I was complaining about this sad state of affairs to a lady who offices down the hall from me. She is a Bangkok transplant and she wouldn’t stop talking about BTD in St. Paul. I made a note to check it out, but when I got home the next evening I found that she had sent me a care package from the restaurant that she called “the best, most authentic Thai food in town. Very simple, nothing fancy, but the best.” THANKS PUI!
And she was right.
I devoured the pad-kee-mow, spicy noodles with chicken, egg, and sweet basil. The chili heat quotient was high, but the burn was slow and complex and the dish was almost a carbon copy of the one I love at Anna’s in Bangkok. The dish was superior to every version I have eaten locally. The gai-tom-kha was deep and limey, a stellar version of a barometer dish that I order in every Thai restaurant. The masaman curry, the fish with three flavors ( pla-sam-rad ), the larb, the papaya salad—every menu item I have had subsequently has given me a new reason to celebrate Thai cooking in the heartland. If you love Thai food, real gutsy authentic Thai food, you need to check out BTD. I have not been disappointed with anything I've ordered during my several visits.
Anyone seen the live kitchen video feed at D'Amico Kitchen every night from 7:30 to 10 p.m.?
I just got back from NYC and had a few stellar meals in between all the to and fro that takes up way too much time whenever I am back home. Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain really impressed me. I had lunch there and the steak tartare couldn’t have been better. The potato chips dipped in hot blue-cheese fondue was comfort food heaven. Flay came by the table and we chatted for a while, and I couldn’t help but be impressed by his kindness and the extraordinary way he took care of all his guests as he bounced between tables and kitchen. He has matured into a really cool human being and a savvy operator.
I also checked out Luke’s, a new lobster roll stand occupying the 200-square-foot space next to the tiny Caracas Arepa counter on East 7th Street just off 1st Avenue. Luke’s is awesome, the guy that owns it is from Portland, Maine, where his dad runs a fish company, so all the seafood comes from the harbor docks each day and winds up on Luke’s menu. Luke's only serves lobster, crab, or shrimp rolls or chowder and bisque, but if you want something quick and fresh you can't go wrong, especially post-club. Caracas is a NYC stalwart of the street dining movement, a little counter indented off the street where you can order any of a dozen or more types of Venezuelan arepas and empanadas. I adore this place and making a meal with friends out of offerings from both of these little stalls is a blast. It's uber-casual and all about the food.
Check out Saffron because chef/owner Sameh Wadi is importing his own spices and selling them out of his eatery. In his words: “It’s always been on my mind to share the culture and culinary history of my ancestors. The basis of Middle Eastern and North African cuisine is in the spice blends, I’m pretty sure we have the biggest spice collection of any restaurant in the Cities. When you buy ground spices and spice blends off the shelf at supermarkets, they could have been sitting there for over a year, shipped from god knows where. They have anti-caking agents and additives to extend shelf life, they lose most of their aroma and that just doesn’t compare to the real thing. We seek out the highest quality spices such as the Iranian saffron that we have imported directly to us, hand grind, and blend with about 25 other exotic and hard to find spices to produce Ras El Hanout.” You can buy them at Saffron or online at the restaurant website starting October 31. Now the big question is how he is going to explain bringing Iranian saffron into the USA that’s gotta be a great story!