Lately as I have been reading past posts that I have scribed, I have noticed that quite a few of the restaurants that I had gone to several years ago have since closed their doors to business. It is not that I expect all restaurants and cafes to stay open in perpetuity. But for those where the experiences were worth more than their weight in gold, seeing that they are no longer catering great service and outstanding food to a customer base can become a bit disheartening. And it is even more of a downer when you realize that for some, there had been friendships established. You always want to see your friends thrive in their endeavours.
One such case was Barberry Thai on Southport Avenue. I know the owner, having built a friendship prior to him opening the restaurant. I learned how to speak conversational Thai from him when we were not discussing politics, cultural memes, and economics. When he had mentioned that he was closing the doors, there was that empty feeling like losing something or someone dear to you. It was not just that the food was top, but that it was a friend who was involved. And recently, my flatmate had mentioned a restaurant called A Plate on Southport at 2819 N. Southport Avenue. When I got off the bus and walked the short distance to the restaurant, it occurred to me that I had been there before. There was a brief bittersweet moment, as I was standing in front of what used to be Barberry Thai. I was not having a deja vu moment. On first entry, there was still the exact familiar welcome that I always received when my friend was the owner. This time, only the faces had changed.
Still set up like a loft, there were the same seating arrangements on the upper level and lounge music playing in the background. I sat at one of the tables overlooking the ground floor from the loft balcony. Setting aside any pre-judgement about how I thought the dining experience would turn out, I ordered a tom yum koong for a start. With the weather vacillating between mild and chilly, I had a bit of sinus congestion. Nothing like a tasty non-medicinal remedy to clear the nasal passages and a spicy tom yum soup will certainly assist. Heat rising from my scalp and my nose starting to run, the soup was working its magic. Fat shrimp in a peppery broth was exactly what I needed and I slurped it to completion and to satisfaction.
Then came the panang curry gai. I have said several times before that I prefer my panang and my curries to be hearty, not of a thin base. The panang curry at A Plate on Southport is thin. However, it was so full of flavour that I opted to simply thicken it by adding the side dish of rice to it. That did the trick and it may be that I had also requested the panang curry to be extra spicy that it indeed pleased my palate more than it would have if I had ordered the dish with mild flavouring. Washing it all down with a tall glass of Thai iced tea — which by the way, would put Southern sweet tea to shame — I was rather gleeful after all was done. There really is no other word to describe my sentiments.
Honestly, I had gone to the restaurant a bit bent on not enjoying the visit. It turned out to be dynamic — if I can describe it that way. The same atmosphere that I remembered had apparently remained, friendly ghosts that were at peace and were more apt to make customers feel welcomed. Clearly the management is doing something correct, as the food and service were both indicative of such. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes. I still keep in constant contact with my friend who had lured me to 2819 N. Southport Avenue for some of the finest Thai cuisine several years ago. Now the new establishment will pull me back again and again. A friend didn’t go away when Barberry closed its doors. That relationship still remained intact. But as of 4 November 2012, I gained a new friendship. Hello, A Plate on Southport.