Restaurant Review: A Thai MONtage

By Gaby Canavati

LOGOS STAFF WRITER

I’ve never been to Thailand. In fact, I’m not entirely sure of the authentic tastes beyond what I read. But, what I am sure of is what’s delicious, cultural and convenient.

For this I recommend Mon’s Thai Bistro & Sushi at 4901 Broadway.

Thai cuisine is influenced by both the culture and history of China and India. From stir-fries to coconut milk, this cuisine is mainly a fish-and-rice culture and primarily known for a balance of five tastes: spicy, sweet, salty, sour and sometimes bitter. The head chef and owner, nicknamed Mon, is a native of Thailand, yet shares several varieties of cuisines on her menu: Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese.

When you think Thai food, what comes to mind? Maybe Pad Thai? It’s no wonder Pad Thai is a national cuisine, infused with flavors of different regions: tamarind, fish sauce, coriander, lime juice, chili peppers, peanuts, rice noodles, eggs, bean sprouts and some sort of protein. Talk about a hearty dish. For us, it was tofu, fried tofu to be exact.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Pad Thai. I blame the aroma and taste of the pungent fish sauce. But, this place seems to have it down, according to my guest. A sweet yet nutty flavor contrasts and conquers the after-taste of fermented fish as rice noodles slurp their way through with a palate-pleasing endeavor. With chunks of fried tofu and an unusual addition of broccoli, this plate could be a good choice for anyone.

I personally would recommend, on their lunch menu, either the Pad King (ginger stir fry) or the Praram Long Song (my favorite peanut sauce stir fry) with steamed tofu. Although you have the option of fried tofu, steamed is always your best bet. Tofu — soybean curd — absorbs the flavors of whatever it’s cooked in. If your tofu is fried, it’s going to taste like chewy oil chunks, rather than soft peanut or ginger cubes. Steamed tofu is always a lighter and a better-tasting option as the tofu picks up on what it’s actually supposed to taste like.

These plates are served with a cup or so of steamed white rice and are priced $6.50-$8.25 (depends on what protein you decide to mix in). The best part (arguably) of the peanut sauce stir-fry was the overwhelming amount of peanut bits in the brown sauce and the fact that the waiter, a native of Bangkok, agreed to let the chef know to prepare the dish with little oil. By the way, let the waiter/waitress know how spicy you’d like your food. Cheers to an understanding and welcoming eatery!

I’m sure you’re wondering why this Thai spot serves Vietnamese spring rolls (delicious, yet unique compared to the norm) or sushi, a specialty from the other side of Asia. Well, the truth is I couldn’t figure out why the sushi. But, this sushi proves affordable and moderately executed.

Sushi is a Japanese tradition and as much as I’d like to detail the art and culture behind this food, I’ll try to keep it to a minimum by clearing up some common misconceptions.

First, as much as we want to compliment the chef for fresh ingredients, like the fish, it’s really all about the rice. Sushi chefs take years to perfect their rice. Today, we find several varieties often with Western ingredients such as cream cheese and even avocado. This isn’t Japanese, but I’m always OK with cultural fusions. And by the way, ginger doesn’t go on top of your sushi. It is a palate cleanser between bites.

Another misconception: sushi isn’t always “raw fish” and although once seen as an elitist cuisine, it’s now available and affordable for most. Give it a try. If you check it out at Mon’s, order the Philadelphia Roll (smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado for $6.50). This never seems a disappointment, unless your salmon tastes like Alaskan waters or the texture completely throws you off.

This place is loaded with Asian fusions while highlighting the Thai cuisine. If your budget doesn’t allow you to fly halfway across the world in the next week, visit Mon’s Thai Bistro & Sushi for a glimpse of what you’re missing.

 

Rating: 3.5 of 5

Hit: Praram Long Song with Steamed Tofu (peanut sauce), Complimentary soup with veggies and rice

Miss: Fried Tofu

Recommended Overall: Yes

E-mail Canavati at canavati@student.uiwtx.edu

Gaby Canavati

 

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