Saturday, March 21, 2015

Drunk on Drunken Noodles

It's not the best test of how good a Thai kitchen is, but M and I are big fans of Pad Kee Mao, also often known as Drunken Noodle. For a lot of new Thai restaurants that I go to, I like to order it as a gauge. Again, it's not the best test, and it also really depends on the style/type of Thai restaurant, but I rarely ever turn down a chance at getting this dish. I tested it out recently from two of the more local Thai places near my office, and I came away with some interesting impressions on both. First was Rhong-Tiam. I had come here once before, and I figured I'd try out the noodles this time around.

My first impression wasn't a great one. Rhong-Tiam doesn't bill itself as a lunch special type of Thai restaurant. Their price point, for the most part, is more indicative of a sit down Thai restaurant that you'd go to for dinner. That being said, it's supposed to be a healthier option for Thai food as it's billed as gluten free and organic. I can excuse the elevated cost point for the health benefits in most cases. Unfortunately, the drunken noodle itself just wasn't that good. It lacked a distinct flavor other than the normal heat you'd get from any other drunken noodle. I get that it's healthier, and the vegetables were certainly fresh and delicious, but there was a distinct lack of seasoning with the dish. I was disappointed with how this was overall.

My second drunken noodle venture came on St. Patrick's Day where I figured it'd be amusing to have drunken noodle on what is, quite possibly, the most drunken day of the year in the city. This time I got a lunch special from Lan Larb, a restaurant that M and I had tried during our walkabout to scope out food options here near my new job.

Lan Larb is a sister restaurant to Larb Ubol, another Thai restaurant near where we live. It's an Issan style Thai restaurant, and one we've been to several times. I got their drunken noodle lunch special and chose the chicken larb as my appetizer. This drunken noodle was also rather disappointing. I didn't expect this to be the best drunken noodle as you don't go to an Issan restaurant for that type of Thai food, but I thought it would still be better than what it was. Lan Larb's offering had the same lack of seasoning that Rhong-Tiam's did, but it was still a little better. The biggest difference between the two is that Lan Larb is a lunch special so I got an appetizer with it.

Chicken Larb (larb gai) is something that both M and I really like. It's basically a ground chicken salad with mint, basil, red onion, spices, fish sauce, and lime juice on a bed of chopped up lettuce. Lunch special larb gai often has the issue of being a little less spicy as they need to make sure to cater to the general public for a more "mass produced" product. While that's always mildly disappointing, the overall flavors are still there, and this is still a delightful and fresh tasting side dish/appetizer.

Overall, both Rhong-Tiam and Lan Larb had disappointing pad kee mao dishes. They both lacked overall seasoning outside of spiciness. The biggest difference between the two is that Rhong-Tiam is more expensive while also not coming with the additional appetizer. For the price point and general disappointment, that's going to cause me to not go back to Rhong-Tiam. I'll still go back to Lan Larb for lunch, but clearly I'll just get something other than their pad kee mao.

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