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John Golden

John Golden writes about food and has a highly opinionated blog, The Golden Dish.

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Posted: April 11, 2014

Thai dining, family style

Written by: John Golden

One of the results of chronicling as I do the ups and downs of our flourishing restaurant world is that I don’t often have the time to go to restaurants that had always been my personal favorites.  When I visit a restaurant it’s often the target of a future review.  Now that isn’t a bad thing necessarily especially if the restaurant is terrific.

That means I always have my camera with me and my recording app ready on the iPhone to record my tasting notes.

But just the other day I was at the bottom of Congress St. where at the base sitsSaeng Thai House, that little family-run restaurant where grandmother, mother, daughter, father and other relations prepare these wonderful little meals of typical home-style Thai cooking.

The dining room onlyi has 7 tables–so sweet and cozy

I wrote about it nearly a year and a half ago, which was the last time I ate there. Now I had the proverbial yen for Asian food and there I was, standing right in front of it. It was mid-afternoon and I hadn’t had lunch yet so I walked in.  I was warmly welcomed, sat at one of the tables by the window and I was actually the only diner there at that hour.

The room seemed to have been spruced up somewhat since my last visit, but it’s still very plain, basic and neat as a pin. One of my favorite dishes there had been their scallion pancakes.  I ordered those and a serving of chicken dumplings. 

The scallion pancakes are crisp with a hint of scallion flavor served with a chili sauce

As it turned out it was way too much food.  But those pancakes—remarkably crisp with hints of scallion and not greasy in the least—were delicious; and I finished off the pile pretty easily as well as  the chicken  dumpling, which were  the best I’ve had in a long while. 

Chicken dumplings at Saeng Thai House

Several days later, with the memory of those pancakes and dumplings still fresh in my mind, I asked a friend to join me there for lunch. 

We didn’t even order tea or anything to drink other than the tall glasses of ice water that were speedily refilled whenever our glasses neared empty.  We started off with Saeng spring rolls with chicken.  They were beautifully arranged on a plate looking like a big flower in bloom.  There was a dipping sauce with it of vinegar, sugar, peanuts and other ingredients that Ralita, one of the owners, tried to explain to us.   A few ingredients got lost in the translation so we never did find out exactly.  But the sauce was sweet and slightly hot, the way Thai cooking often is.

Saeng spring rolls with chicken

My friend ordered pad Thai with shrimp, and I had one of the daily specials, crispy duck.  This was a stir-fry of boneless duck with mushrooms, green pepper and onions in a spicy basil and garlic sauce.

Pad Thai with shrimp

Stir-fry of crispy duck with spicy basil and garlic sauce

The young man who was our waiter, Aaron, and whose father is one of the chefs in the kitchen, asked about our heat preference.  On the 1 to 10 scale we both chose two.

Both dishes were beautifully seasoned, exhibiting all the typical flavors of Thai cooking.  My friend, however, commented that her pad Thai didn’t have any cilantro in it.  She asked Ralita about this who answered, “You should have asked.”

Next time we will and undoubtedly to enjoy some of the best, simplest Thai food in town.

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