One of the first meals I had on my recent trip to Toronto was at Pai, a Northern Thai specialty place and a hit among locals. The first time I ate here, we went at Lunch time and had to wait a bit, because the Restaurant was completely packed, but it was SO worth it. The vibe here is expressly chill, the Staff are friendly and their motto is ‘don’t worry, be hippie’ – which also pretty much describes the decor.
After having eaten not once, not twice but THRICE at Pai, I would highly recommend the Pad Gra Prow with Pork mince and Pork Belly bits, the Khao Soi with braised Beef and the Massaman Curry with Chicken.
For the Thai food novice, Pai offers five levels of spice – ‘Mai Phet’ (aka no spice), Mild, Medium, ‘Farang Spicy’ and ‘Phet Mak Mak’ (aka Thai Spicy). With a word of caution from our server, we decided to stick with the ‘Farang Spicy’ – which basically means ‘foreigner spicy’ – and packs just enough heat without leaving your mouth on fire.
The portions here are quite generous, so we would just skip Starters and just go with Mains for the meal. To drink, my friends would order the Blanche de Chambly and Singha Beer while one of Pai’s signature cocktails, the ‘Summer Dog’ (Vodka, Peach Schnapps and Lychee juice with a twist) was my staple favourite – just the right amount of sweet to balance out a spicy meal.
I’m a huge fan of Thai cuisine although I’ve never really had a particularly spectacular experience with it, until Pai changed all that with just one dish – the Pad Gra Prow.
The Pad Gra Prow is a dish of steamed Jasmine Rice topped with Basil and Oyster Sauce stir fried mincemeat – in this case, Pork mince – as well as a Fried Egg and Crispy Pork Belly bits. Words cannot express how much I love this dish. I have dreams of eating it. The perfectly fried Egg is just runny enough, so that when you break into it, that gorgeous molten yellow yolk doubles as a sauce for the Rice. Ask for the sweet Chili dressing on the side and drizzle it over the rice for that extra punch! The Pork Belly bits are little nuggets of perfection – caramelised just right, so they’re chewy and crunchy at the same time. This dish is the definition of a foodgasm.
Khao Soi has always been one of my favourite dishes, and every place I’ve tried it at does their own version of it. Pai’s version has fresh flat Egg Noodles cooked in the Curry and topped with a few crispy Noodles, Coriander leaves, Spring Onions and Braised Beef (if you’re not fond of red meat, you can sub it for Chicken). It was of course, the best kind of comfort food you can have when it’s cold outside. The Curry has that spiced, hearty, warm-in-your-belly kind of feeling – heightened by the tender Beef chunks which just break apart with the nudge of a fork.
Massaman Curry is a Peanut and Tamarind based curry, cooked with Potatoes and meat – in this case, Chicken – garnished with deep fried Shallots and served over steamed Jasmine Rice. An earthy, heartwarming curry, milder than the usual Red Curry but just as good in taste.
Unfortunately, Pai has only one Dessert on their Menu – Mango with Sticky Rice – and since none of us were Sticky Rice fans, we decided to skip it. Each dish is more than enough for one person to finish and including one drink, it’s a rather reasonable amount (approx $20 per head). Situated right in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District, it’s the best place to grab some grub and fall in love with Thai cuisine all over again.