The Snail Thai Cuisine
Have you ever had one of those moments when you were reminiscing about something memorable from your past and you wanted to revisit? Today was one of those days for me. I had been remembering my years of living in South Shore and visiting a certain Thai restaurant after work on a regular basis. It was where I had met one of my greatest friends to date, and it was also where I learned how to speak a bit of Thai. My destination for food bliss was The Snail Thai Cuisine at 1649 E. 55th Street in Hyde Park. Although I knew that my friend no longer worked there and we would not get to test my Thai at the restaurant, I returned anyway because he and I had made plans to meet for coffee afterwards for our usual conversations — photography, travels, culture, and politics.
Unlike some restaurants that appear to undergo rather unexplainable metamorphoses when you have not been to them in several years, The Snail Thai Cuisine has retained its charm. Aside from some art on the walls, the restaurant looks exactly the same. The two older owners were not present and the hostess, who was just out of high school when I used to go, was now a grown woman out of college. That lets you know how long it has been since I was last there. With a warm welcome — Sawadeed, Mr. Williams — and some conversation, I had a seat and was ready for my usual action.
Aside from the complementary chips that I ate with spicy chilli sauce, I ordered a golden bag. This appetizer consisted of thin pastries stuffed with sweet corn, peas, and potatoes. Served with a plum sauce, they met their end as I worked my teeth on those lovelies without hesitation. This was a change from satay, shumai, and crab rangoon, and a welcomed one if I may add.
The surprise came with the khao soi gai. What usually comes in a bowl as steamed noodles with yellow curry, onion, cilantro, pickled cabbage, crispy noodles, and lime appeared to have had an Italian fusion to it. I had a feeling that I was eating al dente spaghetti instead of steamed noodles, and there were no crispy noodles in the bowl. Not that the dish was ruined, but after you have had Thai food for years and certainly after having it in Thailand proper, you become keenly aware of a change in the recipe. With chopsticks in hand, I polished off the bowl of khao soi gai nevertheless. There was still enough room for me to get dessert, of which I opted for Thai custard. Sigh! All was well in the land after the first bite of the custard. Warm and drizzled with a very light caramel glaze, I smiled through every bite and even got to the point where I was rationing it so that I could savour the taste for as long as possible. In the end, I was sated just like during my days of yore when I frequented the restaurant.
The Snail Thai Cuisine still has reasonable prices that keep a regular base of customers coming back. In addition to some of the finest Thai in Chicago, the added touch of outstanding service is a draw to the restaurant as well. For those who wish to have alcohol with their meals, the restaurant has a bring-your-own-beverage policy and there is no cork fee. Ask any University of Chicago student and they will no doubt tell you that The Snail Thai Cuisine comes highly recommended on their list. As for me, I get to say that reminiscing took me back to a place that was fond to me and not only emotionally, but also physically. Precious memories. What would we do without them?
Kab kum, krub.