It was one of those days with a blue sky, a gentle breeze, something that only Michael Franks could describe in the lyrics of any one of his summer songs. But there was still the remnants of melting ice on the ground. The hibernating bear in me was hungry. Well, it had only been since breakfast. Needless to say, if being on a diet to lose weight was a part of my resolution for the year, I have since reneged on it. My appetite has been rather fantastic and I blame it on working out and eating constantly to gain more weight by the end of the year. The thing is once summer arrives and I am enjoying my Normal Rockwell moments at window seats in any of the countless restaurants in Chicago, I may surpass my anticipated weight goal in advance of December. In the meantime, the gentle bear Gino seeks his next food offerings.
Last year when I was driving off the map to an assignment in the West Suburbs, I ached for some Thai food on occasion. Addison, Illinois, is not a bastion of restaurants a notch or two above fast food. During a brief visit with a friend who lives in one of the adjoining suburbs to Addison, I discovered with disappointment that two of the best Indian restaurants in the Chicago metropolitan area had closed their doors for business. Oh the shock. The horror. The fingernails on the chalkboard. There was only one other ethnic restaurant that I had stumbled upon and I quickly recalled its location. In a strip mall with stores that are quickly shutting their doors, at 74 W. Lake Street, is Thai Addison. I had a few days of lunch satisfaction at Thai Addison before I came to my senses and accepted an opportunity in downtown Chicago so that I could cut my commute down to thirty minutes, with meandering time for coffee.
During lunch, the moderately sized restaurant fills with patrons who appreciate Thai food that leaves you nodding your head with approval. With it being a Saturday evening and it also being kind in the temperatures outside, most who would have been there were probably partaking of whatever came to mind. My belly was growling, the bear in me at it, so I wasted no time selecting what I would have to stop the gastro noises. Instead of an appetizer and an entrée or a soup and an entrée, I opted for an appetizer, a soup, and an entrée. Realizing that I had driven off the map the way I did last year for my assignment, it would have been a crime for me to have indulged a light dinner and then cursing myself on the drive back into the city because of self deprivation of all the good things I could have had from the menu. So, in a manner that is very much unlike what people expect when they see me, I opened my mouth and out lept Thai, me placing my order a bit more fluently than I realized. [Must speak more Thai so that I can go to Thailand and really butcher the language.]
I started with golden purses. Forget about Louis Vuitton. Burn the Coach bag. Ditch that fake what-not you bought from the corner vender. These drops of fried wontons stuffed with crab left me with a sentiment of never wanting crab rangoon again. I savoured them. I loved them. And if the purses were stuffed with money, I would have devoured the seasoned coins and smiled just the same. So golden, so delicious, dipped in the accompanying plum sauce, they whispered to my growling belly to hush. And then a glass bowl of tom yum goong arrived for my second course. Flavourful mushrooms and plump shrimp that screamed when my teeth sank through them, I had to pick the bowl up and finish handling business. Having requested the soup to be spicy, I was thankful for the Thai iced tea I had. Wow, in all caps. There was a woodsy catch to the tea that could be dismaying to some. However, the light sweetening and the milk made for a perfect glass of tea. Now, initially, I raised my eyebrow when I saw the colouring of the soup. It was a butternut squash orange, not the clear broth that you usually get at Thai restaurants. But it was the first spoonful of wow that put the visual in perspective. Bliss. And the third dish kicked it up a notch. The panang gari gai brought to mind the panang I love at one of my favourite Thai restaurants in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighbourhood. Unlike at the Lincoln Square restaurant where the panang comes in a clay pot, the dish is served in a ceramic bowl with complementary rice. And having it spicy was a huge bonus. The taste just danced around on my tongue. Queue me turning over the table and breaking into dance, doing jazz hands, kicks, splits, and random people dancing with me in a choreograph of food rapture. During my past lunch outings, I never had any of the curry dishes because my co-workers, all of us of the ilk that eats in a communal fashion, preferred non-curry dishes. Quite a few were Indian, so I understood. It was having the pananag at Thai Addison for the first time and finding such favour in it that it was gold to me.
When I had worked in the West Suburbs, I never really took the time to sit and enjoy my dishes. There was a constant need to rush back to the office, lest the managers spontaneously combust and blaze bright for those who wished they really would have caught on fire. Considering my appetite, the lunch portions were small, although they really weren’t. I simply had never sat still and savoured the dishes. Granted, I had ordered what was commonplace comfort Thai because lunch was always with a group, I always have to see if the curry dishes are worthy when I am solo. Pad Thai, bamee noodles, pad see ew, and the like are great. But for me, the mark of great Thai cuisine lies in the curry offerings. Fact great service and a reasonable price, like what I experienced at Thai Addison, and I am so. And as much as I hate to say it, I will gladly drive off the map to get some yummy Thai food to keep the bear smiling. Kab koon krub.