I fell in love with a great kitchen last night. It wasn’t a one-night stand; I’d visited this restaurant before. But last night, just a plain old weekday night, Isarn Thai Soul Kitchen managed to capture my heart.
It was my second visit; my husband’s third.
We snuck in late, a couple of hours before the official closing time. Practically speaking, most of the earlier arrivals finished their meals before our entrees were served.
Subtle, Authentic Cuisine
To our delight, the chefs cooked with heart and soul even though closing time was drawing near. It’s a smallish place, and the chefs take the time to prepare authentic Thai dishes, many of which are labor intensive.
Just ask the maitre d’ about the green papaya salad, the work to prepare its ingredients with a mortar and pestle… It’s a labor of love. Meals here are a triumph of passion over productivity.
It was a chilly night, so my husband and I were attracted to menu items featuring northern Thai comfort food.
I ordered Lamb Masssamun with Roti, Bruce opted for the Northern Style Sweet Curry (dinner menu). Thanks to loving chefs, these are slow-cooked stews with braised meats that simmer for hours in complex yet subtle sauces. We had fun trying to guess some of the ingredients, and then later compared notes with the maitre d’ who surprised us with some of the more unusual spice flavorings.
We love Thai food, but rarely go out to Thai restaurants. We’ve been disappointed too many times, even here in Seattle, a foodie capital with lots of people who’ve lived in or traveled throughout Thailand.
My husband spent his childhood in northern Thailand, so he wants authentic Thai cuisine, rather than the crap that most so-called Thai restaurants serve to American diners.
Most Thai restaurants serve fast-food-style dishes with simplified ingredients, fiery but lacking in subtlety — just the opposite of the principles at the heart of Thai cuisine. They omit key spices and specialty ingredients, like tamarind, rhizome powder or kaffir lime leaves, thereby sacrificing flavors and aromas that are required by authentic Thai cuisine.
As a result the typical Thai restaurant serves dumbed-down meals that taste like Chinese food prepared by Mexican chefs, larded up with extra helpings of cilantro and curry powder.
Isarn Thai Soul Kitchen is a delightful exception.
As a final grace note to a delightful evening, the maitre d’ shared his recipe for nonalcoholic ginger beer. I’d sung its praises. Now I just have to find an Asian market where I can buy several pounds of fresh ginger without breaking our grocery budget…
I look forward to sharing his ginger beer with our friends.
[Note: images from Isarn Thai Soul Kitchen’s website, except for the guest check.]