Khao San Road
326 Adelaide St W
If you live in Toronto and you call yourself a foodie or have a foodie friend, it’s more than likely that you’ve heard of Khao San Road, that Thai restaurant has been changing personal opinions on Thai cuisine — at least in our circle of friends. Oh, it’s also No. 1 on blogTO’s 2011 list of Best Thai restaurants.
Tanner and I knew that one day our path would lead us to the back of Khao San Road’s long line despite our general dislike of Pad Thai and our otherwise groundless disinterest in Thai cuisine. When we had plans to catch action movie classic, “Speed” (starring amazing Canadianactor, Keanu Reeves) at Bell Lightbox, we figured to trek a few blocks away before the screening and test our thoughts on Thai food with Khao San Road.
With some research, we knew their specialties: Gra Bong, Chef’s Special Pad Thai, and Khao Soi. I told myself, “I can’t say I don’t like pad thai unless I try pad thai at an actual Thai restaurant, not just at Thai Express.” We ordered one of each.
Gra Bong is a dish of freshly grated and fried squash fritters. As shown in the photo, the portion was massive. You can’t tell but it came in six huge pieces! Plus all the little pieces that had broken and fallen off and you can’t resist eating. Not to overshadow quality with quantity — the freshness of the squash was evident in its sweetness and colour. The batter was crunchy, the inside still soft and tender. And the seasoning was a balanced combination of wild ginger, lemongrass, and red curry.
The Chef’s Special Pad Thai came to the table, and I came to a standstill. I wondered, “Am I going to enjoy this? If this tastes like Thai Express, I swear I’m gonna…” and then stuffed my mouth with my first bite without finishing that thought. All my doubts were thrown out the window. Now, let me be clear, I didn’t suddenly become a huge fan of pad thai. However, the three flavours that Khao San Road described in their description — sweet, sour, and savoury — I got a hit of each in every bite. I ordered this dish with the shrimp (other choices are veggie and tofu, chicken, beef, and pork) and expected to get a measly four pieces. Khao San added about eight or ten pieces — which is a generous amount in my book.
Khao Soi had always appeared to be a perfect dish to me. Every time I’d seen a photo, I’d stare and hope it’d materialize right before me. Disappointment every time it didn’t. I wanted it pretty badly, but Tanner ordered Khao Soi with Braised Beef. This dish is composed of egg noodles bathing in a coconut milk-enriched curry and garnished with crispy noodles, green onion, coriander, and lime. With only one bite, I can say that this famous dish is worth the popularity and the hype. The Braised Beef was tender, the crispy noodles give it a different texture, and the enriched curry has so much flavour and spices that makes it so special. However, we do suggest you make your napkin a bib while having this dish. Maybe Tanner didn’t have the right technique but she managed to splash a bit of curry on her face and glasses.
Though it’s officially spring now, it may still feel like winter. No matter the weather, there’s always going to be a wait here. Is it worth the wait? Yes. If for some reason you enjoy Thai Express, do I suggest you come here? Definitely. You gotta taste the difference! But, even if you’re not big on Thai food, I’d still say definitely come. It’s just a experience you gotta have.
We were short on cash on a cash-only day, so the next time we visit, we’ll be sure to each order a Cha Nom Yen, the Thai iced tea. It sounds perfect for a summer day.