As an amateur photographer, it would be nice to have someone who I could consider my muse. Alas, there is no one. But there is this whole thing with food that seems to drive me. I grab the camera and head out the door, along with my insatiable appetite. I don’t know if that is a case of a muse driving me or food being a rather strong incentive. With weather being nice outside for a weekend, I had decided that I would take my bicycle for a spin. I rode through Logan Square, down through Bucktown and Wicker Park, and even did a pass through West Town. Yes, I made the rounds through the hip sections of the city — sorry Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, and Lakeview, but your popular days have passed. As I biked east away from West Town, I noticed the name of a muse on a restaurant. Lo and behold, there was Thalia Spice at 833 W. Chicago Avenue.
I had been to Simply Thalia in the pedestrian walkway between the Blue Line and the Red Line at Washington Street. I remembered having to go twice, the second time to give the restaurant another chance to wow me — which it eventually did. I recognized that Thalia Spice was the parent restaurant, so I wanted to see if the dishes were somewhat the same or better. Taking a seat outside and getting the white balance set for my photography, I was all ready. And then these two bronze dolls pulled up in their car, hopped out with their angry dogs, and eyed a table next to mine. It had to have been the expression on my face that made them settle on sitting on the far end of the outdoor seating area. I mean, I had come to eat food, not to watch them pet their dogs.
For a refreshment, I started with lychee juice. If you want to slowly break yourself from downing soda pop, I highly recommend lychee juice if you can get your hands on some. Whether the juice at Thalia Spice was concentrate or not, it was well worth it. After scanning the menu briefly, I recognized the whole Pan-Asian pizazz that the restaurant puts forth. They cover as many Asian ethnicities as possible: Indonesian, Burmese, Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Japanese, just to name a few. I keep thinking Jack of All Trades, Master of None, because something gets compromised. One dish that showed mastery was the ginger chicken soup, which was very reminiscent of tom yum soup. The ginger added the right amount of kick to the soup without the need for pepper, and I found it to be worthy of a very nice winter soup. Where there was a lacking in mastery was with the Indian makhani chicken. Visually appetizing, but absent in flavour. It may have been that the dish was not spicy, as Indian food is divine when served with a highlight of some spicy curry. Unfortunately, the chicken makhani fell prey to the Pan-Asian effect, resulting in a dish that was probably tempered based on one of the other Asian influences. Not all Asian cuisines are fitting for a mix-and-match menu. A milder palate would enjoy the offerings, as the flavours may be not be overwhelming the way the food may taste natively.
For the look and feel of a high-end restaurant, Thalia Spice does not have the price that makes you wonder if you need to take out a miniature loan. The service is absolutely wonderful, as the server was not only helpful, but she was also cognizant of me taking photos of my food and did not rush me. I imagine the restaurant fills up on weekends, more on Friday and Saturday nights. Going during the day on a Sunday allowed for a great seat outside — granted I got there in time to secure a great table before the two showed up with their dogs that growled. It may have been a comedy of error that things worked out the way they did. Then again, Thalia was the muse of comedy.
5 August 2013