I just had the best Tom Khar Kai of my life. And I want to tell you all about it. I shall paint you a word picture. Imagine it: a deep cup of light coconut creamy broth that reveals three or four adorable, plump and buoyed mushrooms, big pieces of white chicken, a few glistening onions, and red pepper flakes studding the soup. It is sweet, savory and spicy, hitting every note gracefully. This is comfort food, soup you want to bathe in, then take out to a nice dinner. We’d keep it casual. Just, like, Applebee’s or something. I want to get this soup pregnant. And nine months later, I would eat our delicious progeny with a spoon. This dish alone would be enough to sell me on Chiang Mai Two Thai Restaurant. But the fantastic fact of the matter is almost everything we ordered was absolutely awesome. Let’s start from the very the beginning. It’s a very good place to start.
The restaurant is small, with maybe four booths and a few more tables. The staff is young, and though they appear a teeny bit tough or thuggish, they could not have been sweeter or more attentive to our table. As an aside, the word, “thug” comes to English by way of the exotic subcontinent of India. “Thuggees” were robbers known to strangle their victims. But these kids were nice, seriously! You totally won’t get strangled. It’s cute and cozy inside on a brisk first night of fall. But I don’t think they serve any liquor. Which is troubling, problematic even. I should confirm this. I should fact check this assumption. It could be a lie or misrepresentation. Don’t quote me on this. But I didn’t see any signage for Singha, etc. So….
Here’s where we talk about the food. Ta-da! In addition to the Tom Khar Kai ($3.95) we ordered dumplings (Kanom Jeeb, $4.95) and what are being called “Golden Bags,” (Toong Tong, $4.95). And while I wish the latter had a more mellifluous name – “Celestial Purses of Delight,” perhaps – it doesn’t really matter. Because they taste like heaven. The dumplings, I should begin by saying, were fat and sexy, garnished with sticky bits of fried garlic. Four are in an order. The filling was complex and toothsome. They were substantial yet delicate, like a Honduran hooker with a glandular condition. She has a heart of gold. Thai dipping sauces, I typically find cloyingly sweet. Not for me. These were no different. The bags came with a clear colored plum sauce I wouldn’t write a sonnet for, but neither would I kick it out of bed. Complementing the fried morsel, for a moment I understood the universe. You never know. You might find the face of god in bite-sized fried pinch pots of savory flavor and crispety crunch. Keep an open mind. We devoured both plates quickly, off to an auspicious beginning.
Malcolm, of late, is obsessed with duck. He orders it whenever he can. At Chiang Mai he got duck in yellow curry (Gaeng Karee, $9.95). I chose spicy bean (Pad Prik King) with tofu ($7.95). The worst element of the meal, I am sorry to report, was the duck itself. He attests it was a lot of skin and sort of wiggly, though there were some good meaty bits in there as well. Oh, but the flavor. He specified just one on the heat scale, and it delivered. His dinner was definitely spicy. But rich, complicated and deep. Not picante like rubbing a cut habanero on your gums, hot like a saucy sauna in your mouth. A tiny, steamy room filled with palpable aroma. Ladle more curry on the sizzling rocks for me, please. It was a great dish, though perhaps not quite as bursty as the version at Thai Taste. I may have had my hands in the leftovers earlier today. Caught yellow handed, admitting my own crime, I should be proffered clemency.
My dinner arrived glinting with kicky fried triangles of tofu, the perfect vehicle for soaking up sauce like an isosceles soy milk sponge. The green beans had snap and the carrots were sweet. There was a nutty undertone, earthy and unctuous and orange-hued.. It was a very respectable portion of very good food. Alas, I was so wonderfully full of appetizers and warming soup, I had most of it wrapped up for later. We were super satisfied when we left Chiang Mai Two, sated and surprised and giddy with the unexpected greatness of this humble hidden gem. Happy to have been invited, and happier still to have been turned on to this magical Thai food. My life will never be the same.