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thai food in denver/boulder metros


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as far as i can tell thai food in this part of the country generally sucks pretty bad. as i mentioned in the "colorado dining" thread, there is at least one exception. what follows is a more detailed review of our first meal at yummy yummy thai (this was posted elsewhere in july 2004--edited to remove references to original venue and time specific details)

 

stupid name, crappy location, great food.  i'd been resisting eating here for some time. partly because my experiences with thai food since moving to colorado have all been dismal (though the place in boulder whose name escapes me for the moment did score some points by playing all of the first velvet underground album throughout our meal); and largely because i didn't want to encourage a restaurant with such a stupid name. silly, silly me.

 

their menu is very old-school thai--they largely serve what every thai restaurant in this country serves (though there are some unusual specials). the difference is that the owner/chef--apparently this is a one-woman kitchen--is an amazing cook and all three things we ate were as good as we've eaten anywhere in the u.s, and just a notch below versions we ate in bangkok last winter (and this i think may be due only to lack of key ingredients here). so what did we get:

 

larb with beef

pad kee mow with pork (drunken noodles--so called, i understand, because this spicy dish is the favorite thai accompaniment to a night of hard drinking)

panang curry with chicken

 

no surprises in our selection--we avoided the lunch buffet which everybody else in the place (they apparently get a big lunch crowd from the hospital opposite) was eating only because we wanted to see how the chef operated on an individual basis (otherwise i'm a sucker for buffets). they did establish that as non-anglos we could be served dishes above the normal heat-default and everything we got was nice and tingly.

 

(a digression: i strongly believe that one of the most dangerous things that any kind of asian can do in a restaurant of another kind of asian is utter a version of the following sentence: "we ____s can eat very spicy food"; in my experience this is always taken as a challenge of some sort and really no one wins. i said this innocently at a thai restaurant in santa monica 10 years ago and i still wake up screaming every once in a while--the wife has to dunk me in a tub full of yogurt to calm me down, and then i smell bad for weeks; but enough about me)

 

however, unlike in many places where food can be got mild/medium/spicy at yummy yummy thai asking for your food to have the requisite amount of heat needed doesn't seem to mean that the chef just throws in some chili oil on top. every single dish was perfectly balanced. it wasn't until about 30 seconds after we ate the first bite of anything that we realized how hot everything was--no front of mouth assault, major after-burn on blow-out. nothing had the kind of sugared cloying sweetness that thai food in the u.s can often have. and the texture of the panang curry gravy was intense; the only way i can explain this is by way of an unhelpful analogy: this gravy was to the average panang gravy i've eaten in the u.s as my mother or most of my aunts' saag-panirs are to the saag-panirs in the average indian restaurant in the u.s.

 

i've never eaten a meal in a thai home, but i think this was as close as i've come so far. i'm sure the buffet is a different story, and it may be a different story as well at dinner: we were the only people in the restaurant not eating the buffet so i'm sure our food was cooked with a great deal of care (then again she may be this good all the time). the chef actually followed the food out into the restaurant and sat and smiled at us from a distance while we ate it (i think she wanted to see how we'd fare with the heat). we'd consumed a lot of water by the time we were done (even mrs. jones who can stand a satanic level of heat) but we'd devoured every morsel--i poured some rice into the panang bowl to make sure i scooped up every drop of the gravy.

 

in sum: a great food experience; will it be as good if the food isn't cooked as hot or if the restaurant is full? i don't know--but i'm going to certainly give myself every opportunity to find out. we'd told ourselves as we were setting forth from boulder that henceforth on our aurora grocery treks we'd eat at one new asian place each time--too bad we had to start out with yummy yummy thai; it is going to take a while for us to make it to anyplace else.

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cathy,

 

not sure where exactly your family lives, but from boulder this is how we get there: take the 36 to the 270 to the 70 east to the 225 south. exit colfax and turn right. go a mile or so, remaining in the left lane--you'll see it on your left (next to the dunes motel)--take a u at the light. there's pretty good south indian vegetarian in the vicinity as well.

 

make sure you ask for everything to be spicy. this is my experience of how most asian restaurants work in the area of making things spicy: if a customer of the home ethnicity or close-by asks for things spicy they will be made the way they should; if a customer of home ethnicity or close-by with friends of other ethnicities present asks for something spicy it will be made as it should only if the customer is a regular (otherwise it will be somewhat more spicy); if an all "other" group asks for things spicy they will mostly be humored and things will be made a little bit spicier than normal. every little bit helps.

 

mongo

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The Boulder choices for Thai are sad.

 

I've recently heard reports that Khow Thai on Broadway in Boulder was a step up from the likes of Siamese Plate and Sawaddee Thai. (Both Siamese Plate and Sawaddee Thai were actually good when they first opened years ago.) I had lunch at Khow Thai a couple of weeks ago. The food was nothing exciting; the menu was very limited, with choices like green curry with choice of chicken, tofu, or pork (sorry, the details are forgotten). The food tasted good, but wasn't all that Thai-ish; it had none of the complexity and intense flavors I expect. I don't know if the dinner menu is different. At lunch, you order food at the counter, and a server brings it to your table. At dinner, there is full table service. I won't go out of my way to eat there again, but I wouldn't refuse to eat there either.

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i'm confused--that's a rave review of the food. so why the b+. does lehndorff think he's writing for the ny times? man, i hope this doesn't mean it will be a zoo at lunch today--we leave in 20 minutes.

'cause the location's lousy?

 

Looking forward to hearing your report from the jungle.

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so, we ate at yummy yummy again today. while the place was not full there were a lot of people who were there for the first time because of the review. the yummy yummy folks were happy about the review (even though they got the address wrong!) but were also puzzled by the b+.

 

today we ate the nam sod (ground pork with lime juice, peanuts, onions, cilantro, chillies etc.), the tom kha (coconut milk based soup with chicken) and the green curry with chicken. all very good. the green curry had about 5lbs of thai eggplant swimming in it--i hate regular eggplant and thought maybe the thai strain might be more palatable but alas.

 

they've been getting a lot of attention of late. rocky mtn. news today, westword and the denver post not so long ago. i'm happy for them but hope this will not result in an americanization of the flavors.

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does lehndorff think he's writing for the ny times?

Hey Mondo, nice avatar!

 

Lehndorff used to be the restaurant critic at the Boulder Daily Camera. He was notorious for (1) his size (and one presumes dining capacity) and (2) publishing his momma's recipe for potato sausage stuffing every single Thanksgiving for YEARS.

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We had to move back to DC from Denver because the Thai food there was so mediocre. I used to bring it back in empty beer cases when I visited DC for work -- I became a minor celebrity at a local place for my mad dashes to get to get from Tyson's Corner -- 10 miles outside town -- to Sala Thai before it stopped serving lunch, and then back out of town to the airport in time to catch the plane.

 

We've been to the place in Aurora and thought it adequate, and some odd spot up in Commerce City where I fell in with a group of truly frightening rednecks (no teeth type) that reputed to be a lost gem, and it, too was only OK. Tommy Thai's was apalling.

 

It's not the same, but have you scrounged around the Vietnamese restaurants on South Federal in Denver? We loved a place called Old Saigon and thought it was the best Asian Restaurant of any kind we found in our two years there.

 

BTW, the only Thai I speak is (phonetically) "ped mock" which means "very spicy," or something reasonably close to that. It always draws a smile from the server and the chilis from the cook.

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It's not the same, but have you scrounged around the Vietnamese restaurants on South Federal in Denver?  We loved a place called Old Saigon and thought it was the best Asian Restaurant of any kind we found in our two years there. 

 

Hi Busboy,

 

We've talked some about South Federal on the Colorado Dining Thread. C'mon over there and join the conversation.

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the fact that i am posting this at all is testament to the sorry state of thai food in boulder/denver: i ate lunch today at the food court on the hill in boulder. the thai place there was recommended as decent and i got the panang curry with chicken, extra spicy. it was pretty good, better than anything i ate at siamese plate that one time. but in bad news front: the surprisingly good indian stand in the food court has shut down. i suppose it is hard to be successful if you don't sell chicken tikka masala or anything with tons of cream in it.

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