Vancouver’s Best Thai Cuisine? You make the call!

Along with exceptional Chinese and Japanese food, Vancouver has great cuisine from other parts of Asia, as well, including excellent Thai food.  There are dozens of Thai restaurants in the city, from little mom-and-pop hole-in-the-walls to fancy places with big Buddha statues.

I’m interested in hearing about your favourites.  Where can you find the city’s best Thai cuisine?  Who makes the most heavenly pad thai?  The most flavourful tom yum soup?  The best sticky rice?  Please share any suggestions by leaving a comment below.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll mention one of my favourite Thai restaurants, the relatively new Maenam, located on West 4th in Kitsilano.  Now, I should issue a disclaimer.  Maenam isn’t necessarily a traditional Thai restaurant – It’s more of a fusion experience, combining Thai recipes with local ingredients and culinary approaches from other parts of the world.  To use the words from a recent review of the restaurant in The New York Times, it serves, “haute interpretations of humble Thai dishes.”

One of the things I like about Maenam is the decor.  When you walk inside, the restaurant is just a simple, uncluttered room with a bar along one wall.  There’s none of the garish decoration that you see in some Thai places, just some very tasteful allusions to Thai culture with the bamboo along the walls.  It feels hip and contemporary, with a progressive vibe that’s also reflected in the food.

Photo: maenam.ca

I started out with the green papaya salad, described in that same Times review as “dreamy good.”  It was an exceedingly simple dish – just papaya, green beans, carrot, garlic and chilis -but it was crisp and refreshing and a perfect introduction to the meal.

I was with a large group, so we had a chance to try many of the signature main dishes on the menu.  Everything was good: very fresh and intensely flavoured with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.   Among my favourites was the green curry halibut, with bamboo, basil and eggplant.  It was a dish that I hadn’t seen in other Thai restaurants in the city.  The light flavour of the halibut was complemented by the green curry: an unexpected match that I can’t wait to try again.

Another can’t-miss on the menu is the stir-fried sirloin with heart of palm.  There’s nothing especially adventurous happening here, but the quality of the beef and the intensity of the spicing sets this dish apart from comparable ones in other restaurants.

The prices at Maenem aren’t bad either:  Large plates are in the $15-$17 range, which seems to be standard Thai pricing.

But that’s just my take on things.  I know there are some older, venerable Thai restaurants in Vancouver that have been around for years and probably have great food.  Please let me know your favourite by leaving a comment below.

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