Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thairish

I don't know why I haven't stopped in Thairish before. It's not easy to miss, but it is easy to notice in passing while you're on the way to bigger, more fabulous establishments - it's neighbor is the Helmand, one of Baltimore's (and my) favorite restaurants, plus with My Thai, Indigma and Akbar all in a stone's throw from it, plus a dozen other restaurants, clubs and gay bars just a block or two northward on Charles Street, you're probably not going to be stopping in.

Well, you should save yourself a few bucks and stop in. I did last night. It was quite by accident, really. I had originally planned to go to Dukem, but there was no parking and I didn't feel like walking, so I circled Mount Vernon a dozen or so times and finally landed a space, right across from Thairish. It was fate.

Perhaps one thing that deters people is the supertiny space Thairish occupies - literally, three tables and a counter on the side wall with stools. Really, I've seen "restaurants" in the Towsontown food court that are bigger than Thairish seems to be. But despite the late hour - 9PM, an hour before closing - there was a never-ending stream of people coming in for food. Not out the door, but it didn't exactly seem like business was bad on a Saturday night. Note, of course, that a good portion of their business is take-out.

I skipped the entrée and ordered a few appetizers, not realizing how much food I would be getting (but still for such a low price). I missed trying what some reviewers on the Web seem to say is a pretty good pad thai and an even better masaman curry

I ordered the tom kha gai soup ($2.25), fried shrimp satay ($3.75), vegetarian spring roll ($1.95) and the Thai iced tea ($1.50) Most everything I had was very good, and I'm already looking forward to going back for more of it and then some.

The Tom kha gai soup was, well, different than I've had elsewhere. Every other order of it in every other Thai restaurant has been rich, creamy, especially coconutty and tangy, with mushrooms, little bits of chicken and pieces of bamboo shoots and (for flavor) lemongrass. If those are all the "cream of tom kha gai" version, then Thairish's is the consommé version of the dish. The broth is pretty light but distinct on the coconut flavor, but I really couldn't taste any lemongrass at all. The veggies tasted especially fresh, and the chicken, though a little stringy like most chicken I have had most everywhere (it's just not my favorite bird, alright?) was not in little pieces but in a large chunk. You could interpret that either of two ways: "Wow, nice, crisp veggies and a big ass hunk of chicken!" or "Wow, they kind of threw these in at the last minute, didn't they?" The veggies didn't really absorb any of the flavor of the broth, which is what gives that impression. But note: this will be both the biggest and cheapest tom kha gai soup you will probably find in Baltimore. This isn't the itty bitty Dixie cup size portion that usually costs about $4. Just remember the pluses and minuses of Thairish's tom kha gai. I probably won't order it again, but I won't dissuade y'all from ordering it for yourselves.

While I wouldn't call the soup a low point, it was the lowest point of an overall delicious meal. Maybe it's my propensity for fried things, but the spring roll and satay were just wonderful. Though a tad greasy the vegetable spring roll came out wonderfully crispy and flavorful. It was filled with carrots, celery and bean thread noodles - lots and lots of bean thread noodles, which made it especially filling. I would go back for it. The sweet and sour sauce that went with it was a nice complement.

Same with the shrimp satay. On my plate were four fried shrimp with tomato slices, a little lettuce and a peanut butter curry sauce. I don't think there was any coconut in the dish, but the flavor still seemed a little coconutty to me. Maybe I still had a little left in my mouth from the soup? Anyway, the fried shrimp were hardly greasy and wonderfully crunchy, with a nice overall flavor that I liked both with and without the sauce. Hopefully I can find a recipe for a similar sauce online. For a change, I wrapped up one of the shrimp in the lettuce with a tomato slice and some sauce. This was the piece I enjoyed the most.

I can't forget to mention the Thai iced tea. Not overly sweet like most Thai iced teas I've had, but sweet enough and a little more than that. Very refreshing, although it wasn't exactly warm out last night.

Overall I paid almost exactly $10 for my meal before tip - that would've been more had I gotten an entrée and a drink, since veggie and tofu entrées cost $8 and meat or seafood entrées cost $9. Still, unless you over-order you probably will have a difficult time going much over that $10 limit per person. It's a cheap eats establishment with food that doesn't taste all that cheap. And it's doubtful that I will just be passing it by all the time again.

Thairish on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

SE(Denufood) said...

Hello!..nice writeup..will check Thairish..

Edward Albert, Philadelphia, PA said...

Original Post: October 11, 2009

Excellent review of Thairish. This restaurant is the kind we root for: non-chain; flavorful; amazing value!

I've eaten Pad Thai in dozens of cities. The best is from Thairish in Baltimore. The chef/owner makes it to order in front of you. No goopy, sweet tamarind paste; just clean flavor from each ingredient. Oh man!!! Manhattan is crawling with Thai restaurants, most of them inferior to little Thairish.