Rated Best Thai food in the city many times, this restaurant has great food, despite the recent price increases (now between $10-$17 a dish). The servers need a lesson in the fine arts of beer-plying, booze peddling, and liquor hawking. After delivering two water pitchers for our table of four, the server left the menus for me examine until the rest of my party arrived. I ordered a beer. I waited. And I waited. I drank a glass of water, then another. When my party finally arrived I re-ordered the beer. Now, had this been merely an isolated transgression, I could have chalked it up to a simple mistake (I was once a server mistakes happen). In similar fashion to my previous visits, I was required to work to procure more beer throughout the entirety of the meal. Allow me to give some advice to those servers who work for tips. First off, booze is highly marked up at restaurants, therefore makes money for the proprietor. Secondly, pleasantly buzzing men tip gals much more generously than they would otherwise, and the bigger bill means the 15% tip (yes people, that is what you SHOULD tip for decent service, more if it is amazing) will be calculated from a higher total. Thirdly, if they are eating spicy food, then they will drink much beer!
Okay, mini-rant over, now to talk about the food. The four adults and a child at our table ordered and shared the following: Panang, Black Bean & Thai Holy Basil stir fry, Pad Sa-eew, Garlic & Crushed Black Pepper stir fry, coconut rice, with import beer (singha and beer laos) and Iced Coffee.
One of my dining companions fancies himself a bit of a Panang connoisseur. According to him it was excessively peanuty. In my estimation, it was not only too peanut, but also too sweet. We wanted something spicy, so ordered our dishes medium-hot. Our waitress talked us out of hot. Everything, as the disclaimer at the bottom of the menu states, is normally served mild, and the choice is given to increase the heat from there. I liked the intensity of the heat, it was a bit hot for my friend, and I did not even let my wife touch it. WAY too hot for her. (And as a side note her peanut allergy would have been problematic!) Which reminds me, Keo’s is very good about accommodating allergies, and gluten-free or vegetarian diets. Back on topic: when Keo says hot, she does not mean dumbed down for whiny white people’s wimpy palate, she means HOT. If you love things hot and think you can handle it, do not order hot. Try medium your first time, and then on a later visit order hot. Consider yourself warned.
The Garlic and Crushed Black Pepper stir fry was great, when I saw the giant chunks of garlic I was excited. The Black Bean and Tai Holy Basil stir fry was also good; the bean added a heavy meaty-saltiness that was nice. In both cases the rice sucked up the sauce as all fillers should. The coconut rice was very good. Sweet and tasty but not so much so that it was a dessert. The Pad Sa-eww is something I would suggest to anyone on their first visit here: the flavours are bright and slightly sweet and very “safe,” not at all strange. Some of the things on the menu are very different than your standard cheese burger. Order one of the great salads and you’ll see what I mean, or the delicious Tilapia, served fins and eyes still on! Think of Pad Sa-eew as a yummier fancier version of instant noodles. Sounds strange, I know, but it is familiar in that way. One of my favorite offerings is the traditional Tai roast chicken. It is one of the best roast chickens I’ve ever had, not hot but oh-so flavourful.
Every single dish’s flavouring was refreshing, unique, and different. This is something that in many restaurants featuring Far East fair, most notably dumbed-down Chinese, fail at with an oppressive sameness of taste across all dishes. On this occasion, though, I grew sick and tired of eating the same veggies in all four dishes. It became monotonous.
The iced coffee was what one would expect, sweet delicious and full of caffeine. I preferred the Beer Lao to the Singha, though both are pale Asian beers, and as such go great if you are adventurous enough to kick up the heat a bit. Though sparse, the wine list is surprisingly good, featuring a Melbec from Argentina (I love these) and a Gewürztraminer V.Q.A. The discovery of Gewürztraminer has been a wonderful thing for my marriage. It is sweet enough to make my wife happy, but “real-wine” enough to keep me happy. It is a wonderful marriage of tastes. If you know someone who drinks the crappy wine that comes in pop-bottles or with pictures of little animals on the cover, this is the way to bring them out of the gutter of junk wine. Gewürztraminer is a gateway drug to wine snobbery and should be included in the arsenal of tricks of any junior sommelier.
For anyone wanting a good meal with some unique options, some safe and universally likable courses, and the ability to actually order something hot enough to burn your face off (if you so upgrade), then this is the place to head to!
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