You know how you drink hot chocolate in winter to warm up after an hour of digging your car out? What do we do in summer to stay cool? Swim, eat copious amounts of ice cream, stand naked and pose like Captain Morgan in front of a fan after a shower? Try eating spicy southeast Asian food! Sink your gob into a steamy bowl of hot soup noodle or chow down on a plate of spicy noodles. I remember when I spent time in southeast Asia, the spicier the food was, the cooler you became. I’m not going to give you a science lesson on how sweat cools you down and how spicy foods make you sweat that would perpetuate the evaporation of moisture to give your body a cooling effect. I recently visited this Thai restaurant in Villeray serving up some authentic Thai and Lao cuisine that made me sweat in places I didn’t even know I had glands.
We started with the beef laab. Laab is name of the dish, but it’s also a cooking technique. A warm salad of sautéed beef (you can order it with pork or chicken as well) mixed with scallions, garlic, and shallots as well as a melange of fresh aromatic herbs such as coriander and mint. Tossed with some lime juice and fish sauce and kao kau – toasted rice powder – this dish was seemingly simple but the flavours were so complex. It was served over some shredded lettuce and bean sprouts, it was a great way to whet our appetites, the dish was bright and refreshing. The smokiness of the rice powder brought out the meatiness of the beef. We were asked how spicy we wanted the dish and we said medium, so they packed the thing with dried chili pepper. I’m sure you can order it “not spicy at all”, I mean if you’re some sort of lightweight, but the dried chilies – even the fresh ones we sliced and mixed in – really brought all the flavours together. My friend who cannot eat spicy foods, suffered through it and she agreed that it tasted different (and better) with the chilies as she ordered and soaked in a pool of milk for the duration of our dinner.
The Thai sausage was amazing. AH.MAZE.INGUH. Made with pork, lemongrass, sticky rice, galangal, garlic, lime leaves, fish sauce, – I don’t know the exact recipe because I have yet to marry into this family. Each juicy slice was packed with more flavour than Prince’s Purple Rain album. The sausage had a slight sweetness to it as well. I’ve never seen them sold in Asian groceries before and inquired about them because I want them at my next cookout. I found out that they make it themselves. I have plans to commission a bulk order of these and make my next barbecue a sausage party.
The fried tilapia was great as well. Simply dusted in corn starch, deep fried and topped with a sweet and savoury sauce of fried garlic, lime juice, sugar, fresh red chilies and garnished with cilantro. The skin was crispy and the meat was plump, juicy and perfectly cooked. The fish was inherently sweet but what makes this dish was the three pounds of fried garlic and chilies piled on top that I found eating straight up with sticky rice. The fish is fried whole, so you’ll have to be careful of bones, but you’re a grown up, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
We also ordered the pad Thai. I’ve been saying this for a long time now, I can’t find a good Pad Thai in Montreal ever since my favourite Thai restaurant that made the best Pad Thai ever known to mankind that ruled the universe closed a couple of years ago, I have yet to find one that can live up to it. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t fit right with me. I found it a bit too sweet and one dimensional. The deep savouriness was lacking, that smokey richness from a veteran wok was tame and the sour citrus notes that are supposed to be infused in the noodles sat dish-side in a tin waiting to be squeezed.
I know that it’s unfair because I have some sort of high Pad Thai ruler I gauge all Pad Thais on, but this is the case. Not to say this one isn’t good, it just didn’t live up to the one I ceremoniously poured out a small ramekin of fish sauce for.
Thai Sep offers a great variety of Isaan dishes – region in northeastern Thailand that shares a boarder with Laos. This explains why the food is very comparable in this area and each culture and cuisine share similar ingredients and dishes. Maybe this is why the noodles didn’t do it for me. I’m not going to argue with a little old lady whom I saw cooking in the kitchen on the kung fu of her Pad Thai recipe, but there were other dishes during the meal that completely made up for it. Thai Sep is cash only and bring your own wine. A great choice for the area when you’re looking for a spot for authentic southeast Asian food and to get lit off boxed wine.
1900 Jean Talon Est.