October 24, 2006

Just Because It Has Peanuts in It Doesn't Mean It's Thai

Last Friday night, David and I grabbed some dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. We had wanted to go to BJ’s but as expected, there was a long wait, and we didn’t want to deal with that. So, we proceeded to CPK; there was a bit of a wait but we utilized our time wisely and made a quick trip to Tower Records, which, by the way, is having a going-out-of-business sale. Good time to stock up on CDs, DVDs, and even magazines. Anyway, I’m sure most people have seen if not been to CPK. I was never really a big fan, but I had nothing against the restaurant chain. In other words, I wasn’t expecting much. Mr. Tall ordered a cup of tortilla soup and a Sicilian Pizza, which was topped with Italian sausage, Capicola ham, julienne salami, Fontina, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Being the pizza fiend he is, he was pretty satisfied with the pizza except noting that it could have been left in the over for a little longer so the dough and the crust would be, you know, crustier. Surprisingly, their tortilla soup was pretty good. If I do go back to CPK, I’d probably stick with their tortilla soup and variety of pizzas. I made the mistake of ordering the Jambalaya pasta. I was craving a Jambalaya dish because my co-workers had ordered them during lunch—bad choice. Not only was the pasta over-peppered and way too oily, there was no good balance of flavor. There was plenty of crawfish, sausage, and chicken in the dish, but I had to throw a lot of hot sauce on to make the dish tolerable. By the way: people, just because you throw some peanut sauce or peanuts on something, it doesn’t mean that it’s Thai. One good thing was that at least our service was pretty good. I didn’t really care to take any pictures (because I didn’t have my camera) and I don’t think I’d be going to back to CPK any time soon.

Mr. Tall had a work field-trip up in the Inland Empire all day Saturday. So, I finally got the time to make the test round of the Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake. I had made cheesecake twice before, and it is quiet a process. The recipe was from a cookbook, The Best 125 Cheesecake Recipes, that Mr. Tall had gotten as a part of my Christmas gift. More like a ploy for me to make him cheesecakes. I will share the recipe and pictures of the cheesecake in my next post.

Later that day, after Emily, Jess, and I played a round of tennis, Jess and I ventured to this Thai restaurant I had read about on a food blog. Thai Village is located on Mission Blvd. in Pacific Beach. It is a quaint place with cheesy, beach-scene décor, but it reminded me just a little bit of Thailand. The restaurant was actually quite busy because there was a big party of a couple of parents and a bunch of 10-year-olds—seemed sort of a random location for a birthday party or something. Anyway, our poor waitress was the only one working and after I retrieved the menu myself, she brought us some ice water. There were some interesting items on the menu such as green curry with avocado and fried rice with mango among others. I decided to stick to the more traditional offerings. I asked the waitress if she was Thai, and, of course, she was. I started asking her about some of the food selections, particularly the papaya salad, som tum in Thai, because I had been craving that for ages. Som tum is a very popular dish originating from the Eastern region of Thailand. Shredded papaya is the main ingredient; sliced tomatoes and string beans are added along with palm sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and chili. It is traditionally made in a larger stone or wooden mortar, in which all the ingredients are pounded and mixed together. The versions of the som tum that I’ve seen here are generally tossed like a salad.

Our waitress told me that the som tum was Americanized, but I decided to go for it anyway since Jess had never had it before. Since Jess hadn’t had Thai food for a long time, I decided that we should go with more familiar dishes. In addition to a small papaya salad, we ordered the Panang Curry with beef and Pad Thai with chicken. A must-have addition to the meal was the Thai iced tea. The som tum quickly arrived. It was very simple, with shredded papaya, some shredded carrots, small wedges of tomatoes, and peanuts sprinkled on top. The salad was not as flavorful and complex in ingredients as the ones I’m used to in Thailand, but it had a really good kick to it. Warning, the som tum will give you mad garlic breath until the next day. But, I personally, thought it was worth it. Next time, when I order it I would just tell them to maybe omit the garlic or maybe put just a sliver of a clove. The Thai iced tea was nothing spectacular. I suspect that they might be packaged Thai iced tea, but I don’t particularly care too much.

Our entrees soon arrived. Along with the curry, we got a side of Jasmine rice, which was served in a large bowl with a big plastic spoon for scooping. The mismatched plates and bowls and other small quirky details of the place really reminded me of small restaurants in Thailand. Because I had been conversing with the waitress in Thai, the waitress asked if I wanted a spoon because if you’re Thai, you eat with a fork and a spoon—one in each hand, ready to tackle the meal. The curry was quite flavorful, although a little too watery for the panang consistency but the bell peppers really spruced up the dish. The Pad Thai was simple and tasted like a dish off the street vendors in Bangkok, which was quite reminiscent for me. The food was simple with no frills. The dishes all tasted as if your grandma in Thailand had made them. Don’t expect anything grand because Thai Village is really just about reasonably priced and delicious Thai food. I am definitely taking Mr. Tall there next time.

Little Miss


Jim said...

Thai Village is my favorite spot for Thai in San Diego. I’ve had Pad Thai from street vendors in Bangkok, and must agree with you on the similar taste. Your server was Nana’s cousin; she is new to the restaurant. If you took a peak into the kitchen, you could meet Nana and the other cook. He’s Thai, but I don’t know his name. Next time try my favorite; the crispy duck!

Little Miss Contrary said...

I am definitely going back and I will try to crispy duck next time ... Thank you!