PAI – NORTHERN THAI KITCHEN

Pai – Northern Thai Kitchen

Funny enough, the first time I heard of Pai was after eating at Khao San Road in June. I was walking to the TTC station with my friend and we noticed a large store sign, which read Pai, outside stairs that led to a basement restaurant. Fast beat music was playing and we both remarked that the restaurant looked hip and happening. The restaurant had just opened, there was no line yet and I had no idea Pai was the next venture from Chef Nuit.

Atmosphere: Located in the basement of a building on Duncan St., Pai is darkly lit with loud music and tightly packed tables. When I did get a chance to stop by for dinner a month later, the place was already packed at 6pm on a Wednesday. We were lucky to have grabbed the last table before a line formed, snaking up the stairs. Energy was high and diners seemed excited. A small patio was set up outside the restaurant, fully equipped with speakers to carry the music from inside.

Service: While friendly, there were still a few wrinkles with the service to be ironed out. My dining date had ordered a tea when she was first seated (to wait for me, because I was late, oops) and didn’t get it until after I had arrived and we had placed orders. Getting our bill was also a slow process but overall, service was fine for a busy restaurant, not overwhelming or detrimental.

Food: Reading about Pai, I was eager to try something new. I’m not familiar with the subtleties of Thai food as it ranges from region to region and was excited to examine the menu. Thus, while I was happy to see favourites from Chef Nuit’s previous ventures like Khao Soi and my favourite squash fritters, I would have also enjoyed a completely new menu. As is, I couldn’t help myself from ordering a Thai Iced Tea and a plate of Grabong, squash fritters.

The Grabong did not disappoint, and was just as good, if not better than the same dish at Khao San Road. Portions were, again, large and I was full before my main had arrived. I ordered the Gaeng Massaman Nua, a peanut, tamarind curry with braised beef and potatoes. The rich, savoury curry was full of tender chunks of beef and potatoes, served in a heavy clay pot. I chose the “spicy” spice level and while there was heat, it wasn’t taste bud scorching, just an added bonus depth of flavour. It was a comforting and filling dish, the kind I would crave after a long day or in the middle of winter (with the spice turned up more).

My dinner companion had the Gaeng Sam Kung, a spicy and sour curry with vegetables, papaya and shrimp. This dish was very refreshing, had a strong sour flavour, which I really enjoyed and was a lighter curry. The texture of the curry soup was like broth and clear. I would love to try this dish myself next time and it was a more fitting summer choice.

I’m looking forward to my next visit and exploring the rest of the menu.

Pai – Northern Thai KitchenPai – Northern Thai Kitchen
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