Trying new restaurants is always an adventure, but even better when there’s more people involved, especially when the “more people” have never tried the cuisine served at the restaurant before. So on a cold, wintry Sunday evening, we took my parents for their first Thai food experience at Khao San Thai Kitchen on 17th Avenue. It seems crazy that my parents had never had Thai food before this dining experience, but that’s typically what happens when the bulk of our time in Canada was spent living in a small town without much diversity when it came to dining choices.
Khao San has been doing their thing in the old JAROblue space for almost two years. The interior is largely the same rich, dark wood and drapes, minus the horse photos which have been replaced with a decidedly more Asian-inspired motif. It still has that cool, lounge vibe, except the air is fragrant with the sweet aroma of curries. I bet if I could taste air, Khao San’s would be utterly delicious.
We arrived at the peak of the dining hour and the place was full of happy looking diners. Reservations are definitely recommended during the evenings, but they seem to have openings at the bar that are handy for those just popping in. We also saw a lot of patrons coming and going to grab their take-out orders, which is something I will have to consider doing to increase my Thai food consumption.
Another great thing about going to restaurants with more people is that you can dine “family style” and share a variety of dishes. We ordered a couple of appetizers, two main dish curries, and of course, a couple of bowls of coconut rice.
The first appetizer is the Poung Chom-Poo (Steamed Stuffed Dumpling, Minced Ground Chicken, Roasted Crushed Peanuts, Thai Spices). Aren’t these little morsels just simply beautiful? I can’t even imagine how they get the dough into this shape. Whatever sorcery they use must be powerful. It’s gotta be some kind of press, right? Anyways, I had no idea what to expect of these, but I was pleasantly surprised. The filling wasn’t what I would normally associate with dumplings (texturally, they’re usually soft), but it was flavourful with a bit of heft, if that makes sense. The dough was very soft, but the filling was much more substantial in its texture. “What is this woman even talking about?” you’re thinking. I don’t blame you.
The second appetizer is the Corn Fritters (Deep-fried, Corn Cake, Wheat Flour, Thai Spices, Khao San Pineapple Chili Sauce). In my mind, you can’t go wrong with anything that has corn and is deep-fried. These fritters were just a smidgen on the salty side, but they were crispy, full of corn, and the pineapple chili sauce was an excellent accompaniment that highlighted the sweetness of the fritters.
We chose one of their signature dishes, the Braised Short Ribs in Massaman Curry (Beef Short Ribs, Massman Curry, Coconut Milk, Baby Potatoes, Onions, Roasted Peanuts). “Massaman Curry” (according to the interwebs) is a Thai dish that is an interpretation of Malay curry dishes, and most commonly made with beef, and flavoured with massaman curry paste (it’s true when they say we learn something new everyday). The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender (exactly as expected for a braised dish) and the curry itself was mild, fragrant, and savoury, which went perfectly with the sweetness of the coconut rice we got to accompany the curry dishes.
The second main is the Red Curry with Chicken (Red Curry, Coconut Milk, Pumpkins, Bell Peppers, Thai Basil Leaves). This one had a very subtle spiciness that was the perfect touch of heat. It had generous amounts of tender chicken and vegetables, while the curry had a nice balance of sweet and savoury. My mom liked this dish the best and I think she ate the largest portion of this curry.
When the curries first came to the table, the portion size didn’t look like much. But once we started digging in with our rice and helping ourselves to many spoonfuls of curry, we realized that these were actually quite substantial. By the end of our meal, we had cleaned our plates but were too full to have any dessert.
The pricing is on the higher end, but I think the quality of the food is worth it. Nothing was bland, everything had its own distinct flavour profile, and it just tasted damn good. We got very friendly and efficient service throughout the evening, so it was a pleasant experience overall. They have a ton of menu items, so I will absolutely be back to try out some of their other items. Having another Thai place in our repertoire is a huge plus, but the best part was that Khao San really delivered for my parents’ first Thai food outing.
Khao San Thai Kitchen
1314 17th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T2T0C4
Phone: (587) 353-2668