A few short years ago, we didn’t have any Thai restaurants, now we have a trio of them—oh, how our taste buds have grown. Talay Thai is the newest restaurant to Thai one on, down the south end of Barrington Street in the former Clay Cafe digs.
Not that the interior would give any hints that this spot has been anything other than a dining room. The floors are done in hardwood, the tables a teak colour, the walls a restful off- white. Serene and understated, the surroundings let the food speak for itself.
And the food at doesn’t so much speak as it does shout, with flavour packed wallops that give our tongues the one-two punch and contrasting textures and tastes that take our mouths on a wild, invigorating ride.
We’re starting our ride off in the land of fantastic flavour with the spring rolls (four for $6); crisp deep fried bundles packed tight with crunchy slivers of carrot, mushroom, shredded cabbage and glass noodles, served with sweet and sour sauce. Don’t think of a thick Chinese sweet and sour, think a thinner sauce, the consistency of water, but with far more sweet and sour than you could imagine.
Next up is Tom Yam ($6.25), hot and sour soup, the vegetable version. Chunks of fresh tomato, plenty of dark pungent straw mushrooms, thin round slices of lemon grass and whole lime leaves—that’s a lot going on in one bowl. Our server (who, by the way, is just wonderful—more on her later) has let us know the soup is hot enough to “bring tears to some people’s eyes,” and she’s right. Talay Thai isn’t holding back for our delicate tongue, that’s for sure. This is the best hot and sour soup I’ve eaten in the city. The hot is indeed super hot, but equally balanced with the sour, and when smoke starts pouring from my ears I know I’m done. Words fail me. It’s hot, and sour, just keep that in mind.
On to the welcome neutrality of steamed jasmine rice ($5), which we’re having with tamarind prawns (shrimp) ($13.25). This stir-fry is full of crisp snow peas, onions, peppers, and plenty of delightfully firm, yet not rubbery, shrimp. The tamarind sauce is a little on the sweet side (which is a good thing, what with all the hot and sour), and fairly thick, though not so thick as to be gloopy or pasty.
A visit to a Thai restaurant is not complete without sampling the national dish of Pad Thai (vegetable, $11), and Talay Thai’s version is fine, although it’s not my favourite version—I like mine a little more zippy. This plate of Pad Thai is fairly simple with egg, bean sprouts and ground peanuts and the house Pad sauce (more complex versions include chilies, cilantro, and chives); it’s delicious.
And now back to our server. Knowledge of the cuisine in any restaurant is key, especially when the food is likely to be unfamiliar to most patrons. At Talay Thai, we’re lucky to have a server who is knowledgeable, friendly and efficient.
My only disappointment with this restaurant is that of the five or six desserts listed, only one is available when we’re there. But my disappointment is lessened by the taste of the one lone available dessert—a sticky rice cake with sliced mango ($6). It’s the perfect way to gear down our taste buds from their exhilarating—hot, sour, sweet—voyage.
Talay Thai1261 Barrington Street404-3700Lunch Mon-Fri noon-2:30pmDinner Mon-Sun 5-10pm
Tasty travels? Find liz feltham online at: www.foodcritic.ca.