Bib Gourmand Choice: Thai Village
Intrigued by the Bib Gourmand list, having LA relatives in town, and in the mood for Thai, we went to Thai Village, a place on the BG list that I’d never been to before.
Outside, we wove our way among Small Bar hotties, drunk and coatless on that cold night, to ascertain that this, indeed, was the place.
Inside…pretty empty (not the case at other BG winners; called Cumin Saturday early afternoon and they were totally slammed; ditto Taste of Peru).
The guests ordered spring rolls, which seemed safe.
The first thing I noticed with the rolls was the lack of pop, vegetable energy, mouth-filling spices, bright fresh flavors. All that said, it was edible. The sauce added nothing. Overall, flat if inoffensive.
My sister-in-law ordered a dish called simply “Ginger,” with chicken, baby corn, onions in a “tasty sauce.
The same “tasty sauce” (the promised taste being predominately soy sauce) was used on The Wife’s Eggplant Basil. I’ll say this for that dish, the basil seemed to be right in season as it was very tough and chewy.
Both these entrées had a generalized flavor, almost like a dish of Schaumburg chop suey and similarly stewed, everything merging together into one indistinguishable mass of slightly salty, sometimes crunchy but usually mushy brown matter. I would bet that in a blind taste, if you asked the taster what cuisine he was sampling, he’d probably guess Chinese, based on texture and the heavy use of soy in several of the dishes.
One of the things I value about Thai food at any one of the truly excellent (and almost equally low-priced) Thai restaurants in Chicago is that flavors stand out, each ingredient leaps shamelessly to the center stage while being eaten, singing its identity and making you pay attention while you’re munching it, so there’s lots of dimension and many vegetable voices in even the simplest dishes. Both these dishes were heaps of food, some fresh, most barely identifiable, united under a fog of nondescript sauce, cooked to softness and ladled on the plate.
I ordered something I’d never had before: Gang mhoo tepo.
Advertised on the menu as pork with spinach. I asked for it “Thai hot,” and it came in a bland lagoon of coconut (and I have to believe some milk) sauce, lightly curried and with a little tamarind. This turned out to be the same sauce that was used the Panang curry.
Service was smiling (good) but a more than minor aggravation is that soup, apps and entrées all came out pretty much at once. I understand that this could be a cultural norm in some places, but it does not fail to frustrate and confuse me. And the food was kind of dumped on the table, with sauce smearing to the rims of the plates, tracing the velocity with which they had been slammed in front of us.
Also irksome, the place smelled bad, with a food smell, but not a good food smell, more like old sad stuff.
I have not been to Thailand yet, but I have been to dinner a few times with Erik M., and so I feel I have some sense of just how good Thai in Chicago can be. One marvels that this restaurant gets the Bib and not Tac Quick, or Spoon, or any of the other more obvious places. Actually, I was attracted to going to Thai Village because it was so unobvious, so ignored on this board, and now I know why.
Four of us ate, apps to entrees, for $60, and it’s BYOB. I understand that value is a big part of the Bib Gourmand system of selection, but I must say, I was kind of shocked at the mediocrity of the meal. I would be fascinated to know how the Michelin folks did their research, and I’m struggling to understand the equation that puts Thai Village in the same category with The Publican, Lula, Girl and the Goat, Kith & Kin, Perennial, Mado, Nightwood and The Bristol. Je suis confuse.
2053 W. Division