After a recently-streamed episode of Parts Unknown, my husband and I became, frankly, obsessed with finding a restaurant that served Northern Thai cuisine. It turns out that what most of us think of as Thai is Southern Thai (and extremely bastardized Southern Thai to boot). Google was super useless, suggesting Little Serow (legit and fantastic, but not a good pick for a regular Saturday night) and Thip Khao (where I’ve been and will go again next weekend, but which is Lao, not Thai, so….kinda racist?) Somehow, my husband, the master of Google, found Baan Thai on 14th. I never would have come here, mostly because I didn’t realize that it was separate from Thai Tanic downstairs. Baan Thai doesn’t specialize in any particular regional cuisine; they specialize in telling you which region your food is from.
Note: When you come here, use the green door on the right. This is critical. I don’t know how two Thai restaurants manage to peacefully coexist on top of one another, especially considering that after my experience at Baan, I have to believe that it is far superior. Don’t be the asshole who reminds Thai Tanic how inferior they are.
Baan Thai has happy hour on Saturday and Sunday, so I was pretty much forced to order the house Diamond cocktail, which featured lychee liqueur and aloe. It was fabulous and refreshing, though quite sweet. I tried hard to ration it for the whole meal.
We had to ask our server to help us narrow down the appetizer options and she made an excellent recommendation: the chicken wrapped in tapioca. I’ve never had this before and it was so good I could have made an entire meal out of just this. It was meaty, but also heavy on roasted garlic and peanut, with an unplaceable sweet element too. The tapioca wrapper was like a stickier version of a posticker wrapper. They were hard to handle with chopsticks, but I’ll just blame my whiteness for that.
It took a lot of discussion about contrasting flavors and regional specialties before we landed on two entrees: the Northern Thai pork curry and the–according to them–Central Thai green papaya curry with chicken. The pork was rated three chili peppers and the chicken claimed to be four.
I’ll start with the chicken curry. So much tart, crunchy papaya. The sauce was broth-based (I think) and had a gorgeous salty/savory flavor but…four chilis? Nah.
But for real, that pork was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It’s like…
#1. My wedding day.
#2. Every time I’ve been to Komi.
#2.5. Nan Ji Thoke from Mandalay maybe.
#3. This pork.
Oh, it doesn’t look like much, you say? Well, how do you feel about melty pork belly cooked with whole cloves of garlic and long chunks of galangal, all slathered in this cumin-y, greasy chili sauce? It was beyond amazing. But again…three chili peppers? Nah.
We asked for the tray of peppers and were delivered two containers of pickled hot peppers, dried chili powder, and sriracha. A few heaping teaspoons of chili and both of our dishes popped all the more. But for real, pork. If all you’ve done is go to your neighborhood Thai spot for panang chicken (I mean…who does that? Definitely not this chick!), you need to try this STAT. Southern Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines don’t make good use of pork the way Chinese cuisine does, so this thing is everything you love about bacon in curry form.
Price: $25 per person.
Bottom line: In case you somehow missed it, order the Northern Thai pork. I have to imagine that everything is good, but whatever you do, don’t get some boring green curry.