Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 326 Adelaide Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner
Khao San Road is a location in Thailand where backpackers go for reasonably priced hotels, bars & partying and right before Thailand’s New Year the Songkran festival. The festival marks the start of the year where people splash water on each other to express love and goodwill towards each other; after all, what could be friendlier than getting a bucket of water in the face? The Khao San Road in Toronto follows custom by organizing a water fight in April, if you’d like to join in the tradition without leaving the city. On this visit we didn’t partake in the water fight but just enjoyed the food.
Ordering “family style” we tried a number of dishes. To start we had two deep fried appetizers. First up was the arhan whang taud samoon prai (deep fried garlic shrimp) ($10) consisting of six butterflied shrimps coated in garlic, spices & breadcrumbs and then deep fried. The waft of garlic hits your nose as soon as the dish arrives. However, it’s not overpowering in taste, especially if you dip it into the accompanying sweet tamarind sauce. There is a hint of spice in the batter so you’re left with a hint of heat on the tongue. The dish is definitely worth a try.
For the second appetizer we tried gra bong (fried squash fritters) ($10), which is an impressive looking dish with the plumes of deep fried tendrils. Made from spaghetti squash, the fritters are sweet and remind me of a crispier funnel cake. If you like batter then this is the dish for you; for me it was a bit much and I wouldn’t order again.
Khao San Road offers patrons a choice, in most dishes, of:
- Protein – tofu, chicken, beef, pork or with a $1 supplement shrimp; and
- Level of spiciness - mild, medium or spicy. We opted for medium to be safe, but with the exception of the green curry I couldn’t really taste much heat. Accordingly, feel free to order up a level!
One of my favourite dishes of the night was the gaeng kaew wan (green curry) ($13). Tender pieces of chicken breast were mixed with bell peppers, bamboo shoots, Thai basil and Kaffir lime leaves in a green chilies and coconut milk sauce. I normally don’t like coconut milk, but it had just the right amount to add to its aroma and give the sauce a rich taste. Although it comes with a bowl of rice, there simply isn’t enough of it for the quantity of curry you’re given. Tip, order a side of jasmine rice ($3) so that you can eat ever last drop of the delicious curry.
It’s refreshing to see pad thai that’s not bright red, but rather a caramel colour, which is more in line with the noodles I had in Thailand. Khao’s Sam Roas (Chef’s special pad thai) ($15) is less saucy, but still has a robust flavour which is more sour /savoury and less sweet than you may be used to. I liked it but wasn’t blown away. I can’t put my finger on what I felt the dish was lacking; it could be it wasn’t spicy enough or I’m so used to pad thai having the crunch of bean sprouts and other vegetables that I miss them in this dish.
The pad phed pha (beef with red curry paste and vegetables) ($13) was the most disappointing dish of the evening. Even though the beef was tender, there wasn’t a memorable taste; I recall it was savoury, had a hint of spice, but was mostly oily tasting. The dish arrives disheveled looking compared to other dishes. The dish could benefit from being plated like the green curry – sauce in bowl and rice in another bowl on the side – given it’d look more appealing and the oil would pool at the bottom.
Khao San Road’s wine list is written on a chalk board. Depending on where you’re sitting, it can be quite difficult to read. We ended up getting a bottle of the Dienhard “green label” riesling ($32) which was quite good for the price. Fruity and crisp tasting, without being overly sweet, the wine went well with the spicy food.
Ultimately, the meal was respectable. The mark Khao San Road earned could have been a 7, but I’d likely not return due to their no reservation policy. After two failed attempts, I was finally able to try the restaurant by opting to go by 6:00 on a Wednesday evening. Luckily, we only waited for 10 minutes. But, upon leaving at 7:30 there was a huge line out the doors. Maybe others don’t mind the wait, but it’s not for me – if you care to read my rant on no reservation policies please visit http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.ca/2013/04/my-no-reservations-policy-rant.html.
Khao’s food was good, but I visit a Malaysian restaurant called Restoran Malaysia (please see my post here http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.ca/2012/11/restoran-malaysia-toronto.html ) that tastes very similar. But Restoran Malaysia takes reservations, offers a more extensive menu and the serves larger dishes that cost less. So, next time I’m craving spicy comfort carbs, I’ll just make my way up north.
Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!