Thailand is one of those destinations that should definitely be at the top of everyone’s Bucket List. It’s a kingdom filled with mystery, beauty and some of the best damn food to be found anywhere. It is a land where its king is revered and any slight off color comment about him can land you in jail in a flash. It’s an exotic tropical country where beauty reigns supreme, a beauty most notably reflected in the kindness and generous hospitality of its people, ninety eight percent of whom are practicing Buddhists. It’s unparalleled beauty is also exemplified in its magnificent countryside, from the pristine blue green waters and sparkling sand beaches of Phuket and its surrounding islands all the way to the majestic ruins of its ancient empires at Ayutthaya and Sukothai.
When it comes to food Thailand has few equals. Its fabled food markets, food hawker stands and a myriad of restaurants are brimming with exciting and exotic ingredients guaranteed to explode the taste buds of any discriminating ‘foodie’.
Thai cuisine, although delicious, is complex and demands a delicate balance of ingredients and tastes..sour, salty, sweet and spicy, and the success of any dish depends on getting this balance correct every time.
When I travel to countries like Thailand and have the pleasure of tasting all the wonderful foods I almost always return home and lament that I am unable to find truly authentic replicas in restaurants here. So it is always a pleasure when I come across an authentic restaurant in my own back yard.
Over the past weekend I found such a restaurant, one that I can add to my ‘authentic’ list..Pick Thai, located on the mezzanine level of a nondescript office building bordering NDG and Westmount, on de Maisonneuve Blvd, diagonally across from the Vendome Metro.
Pick Thai’s muted exterior belies the warm and opulent design inside featuring large bronze in laid statues of Buddhas surrounded with the warm and regal colors of gold and muted oranges displayed on the walls and inlaid on its luxuriously padded and cushioned banquettes.
The night we visited the restaurant was almost filled to capacity which may have caught the management a bit off guard as I observed only two servers on the floor. They had their hands full and as a result service to begin with was a bit slow and uneven. After the slow start however they made up for it with a much appreciated apology and a friendly flourish for the balance of our meal.
The menu at Pick Thai is, as is the custom in most Asian restaurants, large offering a wide choice of Appetizers ($5-$10) Salads ($9.95-$16.00) Soups ($5.95-$8.00) Rice and Noodle Dishes ($17.95-$21.50) Thai Curries ($21) and Thai Grills ($28-$41).
We started our meal with two appetizers Koong Rhati ($5.95) and Satay Kai ($6)
The Koong Rhati was three large well seasoned tiger shrimp (native to Thailand) wrapped in a light wheat dough, not dissimilar to a slightly meatier spring roll wrapper. They were perfectly deep fried and devoid of any excess oil and served with a delicious, light and thankfully not too sweet plum sauce.
The Satay Kai, a dish commonly found throughout Thailand at its fabled food hawker stands consisted of three mini skewers of perfectly grilled chicken served with a rather bland and disappointing peanut dipping sauce. I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to Asian peanut sauces, I prefer sauces made with fresh roasted peanuts redolent with the exotic flavors of galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime, tamarind, palm sugar and chilies and eschew those made with any form of peanut butter.
In order to experience as many dishes as possible we followed our appetizers with two of the four soups offered..Tom Khai ($6.50) and Tom Yam Koong ($7.50).
The Tom Khai is one of my favorite Thai soups and it is prepared to perfection here. It’s a light chicken and coconut milk based soup with refreshing flavors of galangal, kafffir lime and lemongrass combined with a hint of fish sauce and sweet palm sugar..Delicious!
Tom Yam Koong is considered the national soup of Thailand . Sweet and sour soups are common in almost all Asian countries and Tom Yum is Thailand’s entry. It is a prime example of a dish that requires that delicate balance of flavors I mentioned before. Pick Thai’s variety delivers all these. It’s an awesome explosion of flavors. Everything is there..shrimp, citrus hints of lemongrass and kaffir lime, the light freshness and sour flavors of galangal and tamarind and of course the exotic and biting bite of Thai chili paste. I personally found it a bit more on the sweet side that I am used to, but in spite of this small imperfection I lapped up every bit and could have very easily made a larger bowl an entire meal……Tom Yum!
For main courses we chose a rice dish Pad Sapporat with chicken ($18.50) and Red Curry Panaeng with chicken ($21).
The Pad Sapporat was a simple but delicious sauté of caramelized onions, peppers, pineapple and cucumber prepared in a tasty sweet and our sauce. The flavors were here in spades, but again I found its balance off a bit on the ‘sweet’ side. My Panaeng Red Curry was sublime. Penaeng curries are very similar to the iconic Thai red curry with the addition of a couple more spices added to the mix (cumin and coriander). Pick Thai’s version sang. The thin shards of tender chicken breast were accompanied with florets of al dente broccoli and cauliflower, sugar snap peas, shards of carrot and wonderful floral leaves of Thai basil. Both dishes were served with steamed jasmine rice.
Desserts in Thailand, as with most Asian countries, are very perfunctory at best and are usually centered around fresh fruits and simple puddings.
We wanted to order their fresh mango with sticky rice, but were told there was none left. We chose instead their battered deep-fried bananas fritters with ice cream ($6). A sweet, but rather uninspired ending to an otherwise fabulous meal.
We accompanied our meal with a bottle of light and fruity Italian red wine..Falesco Vitiano ($40).
It was a pleasure to have been transported, if only briefly, back to the exotic treasures of Thailand.
Thanks to owner Vilay and the beautifully designed interior. I shall return!
Our meal, including two cocktails wine and taxes, came to $147
5221 de Maisonneuve Quest
Tel: 524 316-9696
Mon – Fri 11h00 – 14h30 17h00 – 22h30
Sat 17h00 22h.30