Never been to Thailand. Or Italy. Never been to France or India.
I can’t tell you about authentic. But I know when something’s good.
A friend of mine first took me to Thai Cuisine at Liberty and Pearl before I moved here. I had a winter squash curry. Maybe a little watery, but flavorful. Good. Probably better than just good.
It was also my first time in Bloomfield, which quickly became one of my favorite neighborhoods. The old Italian grocerias where you can meet the person who makes the pasta, the way the freshness of a building’s facade has no relationship whatever to its interior, the Officer Paul J. Sciullo II memorial trophy, the tendrils of an Asian demographic shift.
I made a point to go back. I did. And I will again.
This time there was a soft-shell crab special. That’s an easy sell for me.
I suppose it should weird me out a little that there’s an industry built around snatching crabs out of the water when they’re at the their most vulnerable, shedding their hard shells and slowly growing new ones. But it doesn’t. (… Sorry?)
This one was tasty. Well-battered — not too heavy, good seasoning that adds something to the crab — if a little oily. On the plate, it looked like a giant fried spider climbing a small mound of tasteless shredded iceberg lettuce and toothpicks of carrot that similarly added little.
On my tongue it was almost all crab. As it should be.
Then came the Rad Na. Wide rice noodles in an oyster-garlic sauce with fried tofu, carrots, onions and Napa cabbage.
Thai Cuisine, like a lot of places, has a heat range to choose from, 1 to 10.
“Actually,” my waiter said, “we can go higher than that if you want.”
I asked for an 8 when he couldn’t give be a ballpark idea of what a 10 was. The 8 turned out to be a fairly mild palate-warmer, a little tingle that stayed with me after I walked back into the outside chill.
Next time will be Spinal Tap. Next time, we go at least to 11.
There was too much sauce on the plate that arrived — everything was practically doggie-paddling in it — but it clung to the ingredients well. The noodles themselves were excellent, smaller than I expected, delicately chewy bits of garlic-soaked wonderfulness. The texture inside the tofu added the creaminess I’d hoped for.
This is when I wish I knew more about what was authentically Thai.
I mean, I suppose it’s not not Thai. Not the way that this pizza joint in Oakmont isn’t really Italian even though its name is Tomanetti’s. At least they’re honest about it in the fine print. Check out the end of the second paragraph.
But I digress. I just thought that was funny.