Saturday, March 6, 2010

Thai Talk


There are lots of choices for Thai in Providence. To start, try either (both) of these. SAWADDEE (93 Hope St, Providence 401-831-1122), a few blocks up from Wickendon, is practically an east side institution. "Sue" has been in the business since 1984 and her tiny restaurant is usually filled. And it is a tiny space so if you're thinking you will drop in at prime time understand that you will likely be doing sidewalk time. Easy enough to get around if you're willing to eat early or late. Sawaddee is very casual and what you don't get in decor you get on your plate. When we walked in last week Sue (I'm guessing it was Sue) assessed us as non-regulars and offered suggestions. On her advice we ordered the popular #13 (a/k/a Chicken 93 with String Beans), made with Sawaddee's special shrimp-paste based spicy (not too) sauce. My friend and I enjoyed this but liked the red curry with lamb even better; Sawaddee's red curry is warm and rich. A second order of rice was needed to do due diligence to the sauces. And then, suddenly, we were filled to the gills and had to leave sauce on the plate, a shame. Maybe I shouldn't have filled up on fresh spring rolls as a starter! Their version is a lighter-than-air combination of rice noodles, sprouts, lettuce, shrimp and mint served with a plum sauce with crushed peanuts. The menu is available for takeout/delivery. 

PAKARANG (303 South Main St, Providence 401-453-3660) is a bigger, more dressed-up restaurant, well known to Cable Car ( movie-goers. Dining with a different friend, I still had the urge for fresh spring rolls. They weren't  on the menu but our waiter, a prince, said, no problem, and served up Pakarang's version. He told us the rolls are really more Vietnamese than Thai. Pakarang's rolls have a heavy basil scent (no mint in these) which is the basic allure for me. My friend was in serious need of Pad Thai and what can you say about Pad Thai? It is, I think, one of the best comfort foods on the planet. At this point we were happy, close to sated, with just enough room for the Scallops and Eggplant, which are served in a black bean sauce with basil and red peppers - not spicy, just a simple combination of good things. Fine dining.

P.S. I think the very best fresh spring rolls are at APSARA PALACE (783 Hope St, Providence 401-831-4722)


I'm still at it, slowly cooking my way through this David Tanis cookbook. Zuppa di Fagioli with Garlic Toast was a recent effort. It's basically a white bean soup made with smoked ham hocks. And crushed fennel seeds, and infused rosemary oil, and, and, and - a certain amount of preparation, yes. And my white beans took substantially longer to cook than Mr Tanis suggested, but that's a quibble. The soup is hearty and it's really good, made even better with the garlic toast which you should prepare, as you may have guessed, exactly as Mr. Tanis suggests. Just buying a smoked ham hock is fun. This one is from the Wintertime Farmers Market (1005 Main St, Pawtucket, Saturdays 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) 

1 comment:

  1. Seems like there is always a Thai restaurant named Sawatdee in an American city. Sort of like there is always an "India Palace/Jewel/House" somewhere in a major metropolitan area.

    Love the blog!