Craig was kind enough to treat me to not one, but TWO yummy birthday dinners this year (thanks buddy!), one of which was my favourite world cuisine at Nahm Thai Bistro. A true gentleman does not reveal his age, but let’s just say this year was one of those middle-age milestones that requires some drowning of sorrows.
So for the first meal we hit Central City Brewpub where Craig and Jay of @jfoodreviews plied me with tequila shots chased with vodka… Yeah it was one of those epic nights of debauchery that would definitely be worth writing about, if it weren’t such a booze-soaked blur.
My actual birthday fell on a Monday though so I stayed sober in order to bring you an in-focus review of Nahm Thai Bistro. I hadn’t been here for a few years but have some fond memories of the food and the authentically Thai katoey waitress that used to work there.
Unfortunately the fun server wasn’t there but the service was still attentive, and the cocktails made up for any missing fruitiness. I ordered a Gin Fizz ($6.50) which I expected to just be a straight highball of gin and club soda with a hit of lime juice due to the menu description of “Gin, fresh lime juice topped with soda water“, but came with a big scoop of sugar or syrup added to the soda making it sweeter than a sunbeam plus LOTS of lime—I counted about three whole ones chopped up in there! A big sprig of mint floated lazily on the surface. Refreshing but a bit sweet for my tastes. If you like Limeade you’ll probably love this.
We quickly got down to brass tacks and settled on a few mutual faves. Som tum, tom yum gai, and pad grapow. Take note of the Jasmine Rice; $2.50 got us this little bowl which definitely was not enough for our meal. It’s nice that Nahm Thai offers a brown rice option for $3, but it would be be even nicer if they offered a large size for sharing.
Som tum Papaya Salad ($10.50) is one of my favourite foods and one that according to a Thai friend of mine is only suitable to eat with good company so it was a fitting choice. One of those dishes that’s meant to be shared, I have fond memories of eating this freshly made street-side and trying all the various local mods to the streetfood standby.
The version at Nahm Thai had all the right flavours with sugary sweetness, a fair bit of heat from the chilis but not so much as to overpower the dish, and enough garlic to give it some oomph without ruining your date. No shrimp, but you can add tiger prawns for an extra $3.
Drenched in fish sauce, this dish should have been a winner, but what’s this? No peanuts? The menu pic clearly shows them… I asked for one of those trays that come with peanuts, sugar and dry chilis and our waitress did her best to accommodate but brought out a separate dish of whole peanuts and several varieties of wet chilis. Bit of a fail there.
Clockwise from top left the tamarind with chili flakes was sweet and garlicky and was the mildest of the bunch. Moving up on the Scoville scale the wet chili paste had a sour bite before the spice hit. This one was similar to what you might get at a pho joint. And finally the fresh green and red chilis in fish sauce were burn-your-butt spicy and I’d caution you to apply sparingly!
The hot and sour Tom Yum Chicken soup (Large, $11) had massive mushrooms floating in a tamarind broth made fragrant with galangal, lemongrass and coriander. Bubbling beneath the surface were hearty chunks of tomato and chicken. We both felt the portion was quite generous on this one and the soup was definitely top notch in the authenticity department.
If I had to pick a favourite Thai dish it would probably be Pad Grapau ($14.50). The best version I’ve had I payed a measly 30 baht ($1.30 CAD) for at a sleazebag hotel called the Penthouse (just up the soi from the equally flea-ridden Playboy) in Bangkok. In their version the beef was minced and chock full of birds-eye chilis. I keep hoping to find something similarly prepared locally but have come up empty-handed, so if you know of a spot that serves it minced let me know in the comments section!
Nahm Thai Bistro’s Pad Grapau had long thin slices of sautéed beef paired with plenty of veggies. Red and green bell peppers, carrots, onion, green beans and of course the ingredient that makes the dish, Thai holy basil.
While it was a passable version, it felt a bit Westernized for my tastes. Not spicy enough and could have used more basil.
Located two blocks from Surrey Central station, Nahm Thai Bistro is close and convenient enough for me to be an occasional repeat customer, but I found it a tad overpriced for the most part. I miss the authenticity of places like Thai by Thai’s recently shuttered King George location and the long-gone-but-not-forgotten Full Moon Laos Thai Restaurant across from Central City. Will the City Center area be blessed with a truly traditional Thai hotspot worth its salt (sugar, chili, tamarind and fishsauce)? Stay tuned to Surrey Eats and we’ll keep you posted!