Sunday, March 09, 2008

Cajun Bangkok REVISITED

When Karen said she wanted Thai for lunch after errand running I suggested Cajun Bangkok. "Are you sure? I thought you -". "Toasted coconut platter, Karen. We have to go try it." "Do they even have Thai food?" "Yeeesssss, c'mon. Trust me."

Dear reader, you may have seen my "Heaven and Hell" piece about having smelly fish after a couple awesome starters. This was our only real reason for trepidation. Since then, everyone's talking about the appetizer where you make your own little wraps out of collard greens, toasted coconut, etc. So, I had to satisfy my curiosity. In the end, we agreed that we'd had one of our best lunches out in a long time. Here's the boiled down play by play.

We stared at the menu and told the charming server that we KNOW we're starting with the Toasted coconut platter. Meanwhile, we sifted through the options looking for Thai food. Because this place is an attempt at fusion cuisine, there are a lot of funny concoctions that lean toward either Thai or Cajun and always avoiding authentic tried and true recipes. But this day was not for experimenting. We wanted a sure thing.

"Everything is either noodle, meat, or sandwich," said Karen, who is currently prohibited from eating noodles due to some medical hocus pocus about her blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Since we were going to share, and I'm a vegetarian, that ruled out most other options (noodles evidently being the standard replacement for meat). And, of course, sandwiches are not Thai. We wondered if we wouldn't have been better off at our old standby, Mom's Siam, getting some tofu dish that we've had a hundred times.

We decided to go with what we know to be delicious at Cajun Bangkok: Thai she-crab soup and southern fried Calamari. That's right, three appetizers and no entree. As we ordered, we were presented with the cutest platter of separated ingredients I've seen in a while. It was a ramekin of toasted coconut in the middle, surrounded by lightly browned peanuts, diced red onion, green chili pieces, fresh ginger, dried shrimp, tiny lime pieces, and perfect little circles of collard greens. There's a picture that almost does justice to the artfulness of the platter in the February RTD review. Everything was in miniature, to the point that my initial reaction was to feel slighted by the small portion.

Feeling famished, we dug in, making our little wraps, squirting them with a the provided sauce (really understated and smooth), and scarfing them down. For a few minutes, there weren't many words spoken. Then Karen proclaimed, "This is the perfect salty, spicy, sour, sweet." I agreed. And, to my amazement, when Karen gave up, there was still lots left and I had to race to finish it as the next two plates arrived.

Our soup and calamari were just as before: amazing. The rich and spicy she-crab was again spiked with curry and coconut milk. And the light and tasty breaded calamari came with the same inexplicably delicious dipping sauce (which we had to request more of). What the heck is it, anyhow? Thai spiced... tomato based... whatever. There's a drop on my shirt that I'm tempted to lick right now. This meal was now at three layers of perfection.

We decided to forget the blood sugar fear-mongering and ended with mango and sticky rice. As in any Thai place, it was beautifully presented. But the flavors were a cut above. "This is the most perfectly ripe mango I've ever had," gushes Karen between mouthfuls. And the sticky rice was not overpoweringly sweet, despite the coconut creme glaze that oozed around the plate. We gobbled with gusto.

The level of satisfaction at our table was positively post-coital. Both of us were mildly euphoric as we praised the server and paid the tab (which consisted of $5+$6+$7+$8). Looking around the dining room which had remained empty for our entire visit, I asked how business was going. You could see a little trouble in our server's face. But he perked up, saying that things had improved since the 3 outta 4 stars in the RTD review.

I felt bad for having dissed the stinky tuna that we got a few months back, and hoped that they truly were bouncing back. As far as I know, fish may not be their strong suit, or it was just a bad night. For my household, ordering will be a little more fun if they would add a tofu option to some of the entrees (and after the starch ban is lifted in a month and we can order noodles again). But either way, from here on out, we're gonna head back to this place often as long as they can overcome the skeptics (like me) and keep the lights on.

1 comment:

  1. I've always been a little skeptical of fusion restaurants. Take two perfectly good tried and true cuisines and create something less than the whole. It can be great if it is well thought out but I have found that to be the exception.

    That being said, the dishes you describe sound intriguing. I'm a sucker for a good she-crab soup and we may have to give this place a try.


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