It was nearing dinnertime Friday night and it was raining, and though I have long been craving some Soul food since I got to town, nearly all the places that make any worth talking about are SO far from my home. When I decided to look into a different genre closer to home I recalled a place that had been recommended to me by a handful of people since I started making my flogging known, Sukhothai.
Located in the Bells Corners section of Ottawa, Sukhothai is tucked away in a small shopping area; it certainly isn't conspicuous. If you aren't paying attention, you could drive right by it. Luckily, we don't live too far from this area of town, so I have had plenty of opportunities to eye this place up while I've been out running errands. As per usual with my Mister and the Sprout in tow we hedged our bets and showed up shortly before the dinner hour, 4:45pm. This was a mistake because they don't open until 5pm. If it hadn't been raining, this wouldn't have annoyed me at all. But it was pouring when we showed up. What do you do with a toddler in a situation like this?? My Mister knew...they went to McDonald's Playland next door to wait there and find something to occupy him.
When the doors were finally opened, at exactly 5pm, we were shown to a loverly half chair, half booth table and given a high chair right away. As I listened to our waitress tell me what their best dishes were, I scanned through the menu. She left me to decide on my entree while she went to ask if I could be allowed to shoot pictures inside. It really took me quite a while to decide between a curry or something else. I am a TOTAL sucker for ANYthing with coconut milk in it, but I saw something that caught my eye and I kept going back to it over and over comparing whether that sounded better than everything else. It did...we sent in an order for Pho-Pia Goong (Shrimp Spring Rolls w/ Plum Sauce), Tod Mun Pla (Deep Fried Fish Cakes w/ Cucumber Peanut Sauce) and for my entree, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang (Cashew Chicken). I was so excited, being that I was having trouble sitting still I decided it was time to explore.
It isn't a very large place, but they make the most of their space. Plenty of beautiful art on the wall, live plants and seating of every variety; even parties of 6 can get their own table. Everything inside is just so. Just enough soft lighting, but not too dark; I particularly noticed because I was sitting against the wall of the kitchen that it was neither too hot nor too cold inside. I am never able to enjoy my food when I am sweating buckets... Even so, sitting there we didn't catch much "kitchen noise". I was quite content on the atmosphere front. Not more than 10 minutes went by and our appetizers were on the table.
Tod Mun Pla
I'll start with the Pho-Pia Goong by saying that they had no flavor themselves other than shrimp and wrap. I read the description a couple times before I ordered them, so I knew I was getting shrimp spring rolls, but I never thought it would be the ONLY thing in them. The plum sauce of course helped, but it didn't change that for me 5 bucks for 2 pieces of shrimp in wraps just didn't seem like a good value. My Mister and I found ourselves wishing we had gone for the vegetable rolls instead. Our Tod Mun Pla was largely consumed by the Sprout, so I only had 2 bites...one bite without anything added to them and one bite with the accompanying cucumber peanut sauce. They were delightful either way. The evidence doesn't lie, our son scarfed the fish cakes down so fast we were starting to wonder what else we'd feed him when he was done. Lucky for us, he LOVES spice and diverse flavor so we were in the right place. I found the cucumber peanut sauce to be a pleasant compliment to the cakes and really highlighted the fish meat well. It came off light rather than how most fried fish ends up becoming heavy and drenched. I was ready for my entree to bring it home...
Gai Pad Med Ma Muang
I wasn't prepared for the fact that we were going to have to order and pay for our rice separately from our entrees. I've NEVER been to a place that does that. It is always a part of the meal. You can choose from sticky rice and fragrant rice, both are the same price. I chose fragrant rice, more commonly known as Jasmine Rice. Jasmine rice is the typically served rice in Thai culture, I'm not really sure why there was a choice other than jasmine. It isn't a huge deal, just odd.
My Gai Pad Med Ma Muang was simply marvelous! The last time I had something that was a cashew chicken it was WAY too sweet AND too spicy. I LOVE spice, but when it masks the natural flavors of ALL the elements in your dish there is too much. The sauce was more on the brothy side than sticky/thick/heavy side. I was grateful for that after having a fried spring roll earlier in the meal. It was quite easy to detect how fresh the vegetables were by texture and flavor. It was spiced JUST right, even the Sprout loved it.
To sum up our night I WILL say that I feel like their portions could be slightly larger than what they offer for the money and the Pho-Pia Goong needs a revamp....take the tail off, throw nice thick raw slices of shrimp into the wrap with some veggies & seasoning and fry it up. But just those two things certainly won't stop me from going back. My Mister and I both agree that Sukhothai is worth a repeat visit to try more things. There were more pluses than minuses for the night and I have no reservations about recommending Sukhothai to even the most avid Thai foodie. Remember that they open promptly at 5pm for the dinner hour, plan accordingly and of course...enjoy your meal!!