Stepping into Lanna Thai must be like stepping into Thailand – if Thailand was a tiny, cute restaurant squeezed in between other tiny, cute restaurants on one of Vancouver’s busiest streets. Greenery, Thai art, Buddha statues, and miniature waterfalls all set to the gentle flowing sounds of spa music are what greet you as you enter.
After first being introduced to Lanna Thai two years ago, it has since been “my secret Thai place” – that is until tonight, when I asked two friends to join BoyToy and I for dinner. Let’s consider this my good deed for the year.
A quick glance around the restaurant tells me this place may still be my secret for just a little longer because we are the only people seated. It seems much of their business comes from takeout orders since people seem to be trickling in and out carrying cartons of food as the night progresses.
This is just fine with me since I’d hate to have to find a new secret Thai place just because of a little overcrowding. (Who am I kidding? Empty threat.)
Authenticity is Lanna’s weapon of choice. And nothing screams authenticity more than fresh ingredients, precious Thai ladies who take your order politely, hand-written receipts, and pad thai completely devoid of ketchup.
I have a sneaking suspicion that unlike in every other Vancouver Thai restaurant, true pad thai is not supposed to come out looking like it was marinating in a vat of ketchup overnight. Lanna’s pad thai arrived steaming hot in a tan coloured sauce. Pieces of tofu and chicken were tossed throughout the noodles and the flavours were more subtle and definitely less sweet than the pad thai I’m used to here. It’s a good thing.
Any discussion about Lanna Thai that doesn’t include the larb would be a great disservice to all that is good in the world.
From my very first bite two years ago, I knew it was for life. I’ve not been able to find a larb dish that speaks to my heart the way Lanna’s does. Is it possible for something to taste sweet, spicy, savoury, and tangy all at once?
Yes. Yes, it is.
Tonight’s beef larb dish came tossed in a tantalizing mixture of fish sauce, onions, chili, cilantro, lime juice and sprinkled with toasted brown rice. It’s like finally being invited to eat lunch at the cool table where everyone from the jocks and cheerleaders to the artists, dancers, and brainiacs all come together to celebrate you. It’s a party that you hope will never end – just in your mouth.
My only complaint is that it is too small (as per usual). It was a sad and startling realization to look down to see zero bites left and at $10.95 a dish, I’m not ashamed to admit this stung just a bit.
Let’s talk curry for a moment because any Thai meal would be incomplete without a curry dish. I have a strong bordering on irrational fondness for the green variety and while I enjoyed the sweetness of the sauce in my green curry dish tonight, I would have liked to see more colourful veg and less bamboo shoots accompanying the chicken. The eggplant can stay.
After sharing my little secret, the question remains: would I return?
As long as Lanna keeps serving up delicious larb and ketchup-less pad thai, she’ll always have a special place in my heart. I’m not one to say no to a challenge and with six other curries on the menu to sample, I’ve got my work cut out for me. Moderately priced at $50 for enough exotic food to feed two people plus beer, I know I’ll be seeing Lanna again.