It was a Saturday evening. I could not seem to shut off my food alarm. I was downtown Chicago, as usual. Pedestrians were screaming at me to pull the kill switch on my food alarm. My food alarm was telling them all to go fly kites, bake cakes, and jump from bridges. I was standing at the corner of Clark Street and Chicago Avenue. Panang Thai restaurant was behind me. I could smell the aroma. I smiled.
Having finished snapping photos of the Near North Side of Chicago, it was convenient that I was right at 800 N. Clark Street. There is, of course, a multitude of eateries in the area to sate the palate. However, it was close to dinner time and it was better that I had settled on something a little more fulfilling than just a snack. And far be it from me to turn my nose up at a plate of some authentic Thai food.
Upon entering the restaurant, the dim lighting was so reminiscent of Los Angeles and Miami restaurants that have the whole mood monopoly in place. I must add that there was not the usual cabal of plastic Ken and Barbie dolls, though. The music is always low-key and the background music is always — and I exaggerate always — the most pleasurable to the listening sense. This evening there was Blue Six piping in over the speakers. Hello! Let’s Do It Together. Music and Wine. Sweeter Love. Aquarian Angel. Heroin Chic. Any restaurant, cafe, or boutique that plays music from musicians on the Naked Music label gets my business without complaint.
Although this was going to be dinner for me, I wanted to enjoy a little more of downtown, so I ordered a small appetizer and a entree. I started with crab rangoon. This was cream cheese with pieces of crab stuffed inside of fried wanton noodles. Crunch. Crunch. Ummmm. With a sweet and spicy dip at hand, the five crab rangoons went down the hatch and people stopped looking at me once my food alarm finally shut off. Actually, they kept looking because I had my camera out and was standing at various angles photographing the appetizer. Yes, clearly I get a kick out of clicking away at my food much like I enjoy photographing the many Barbarellas who want portfolios for some reason they never say.
For the entree, I opted for a customary Thai soup called kow soi. Because I am holding fast to my modified vegetarian diet, I had koong — that would be shrimp — in the soup. There was a great balance of soft noodles and crunch noodles, lime, and onions all served up in a bowl of panang gravy. First, the restaurant does it up right with the background music. Then they follow suit with some of the tastiest curry outside of Bangkok. Sip. Sip. Slurp. Lucky for me I had my usual colossal appetite because the bowl was fitting for two people or a damn country boy who eats from big bowls on the general principle. And I managed to spill only three droplets of the curry onto my white shirt. [Insert expletive.]
Unlike many Chicago restaurants where you are practically rushed away after you finish your meal, I sat long enough to let my food go down before trying to walk. I still have a problem of getting buzzed when I eat too much. Now that I think of it, getting drunk on food may be bad. Then again, that is all relative when the food tastes so blooming yummy.
With such great eating, Panang has the potential to get packed faster than you would imagine. And with the fantastic atmosphere, comfort, cheap prices, and other toppings that make the restaurant appealing, it may be a good idea to go during midday hours when the noise level from other patrons is limited to crunching, slurping, spoons hitting the edge of bowls, and forks tapping plates. All I know is that whenever my food alarm goes off and I find myself standing at the corner of Clark Street and Chicago Avenue, I will simply shove whomever out of the way so that I can go and put my feet under a table at Panang.
Typing this from my laptop while sitting in a small coffee shop listening to acoustic guitar in the background.
16 October 2010