Restaurant: Pai Northen Thai Kitchen
Location: 18 Duncan Street, Toronto, ON M5H 3G6
Price Range: $$
I love Pai. No seriously, I f***king love it. Located near TIFF, Pai is a fantastic Northern Thai restaurant in Toronto that serves authentic cuisine with sophisticated flavors. Without reservations, even during the weekdays, you can wait up to an hour for a table. Some opt to sit at the bar when seating is scarce in the main dining area, or you can make use of their fantastic system where the host will text you once a table is available.
The ambiance and decor is fantastic – feels like you’re in a market in Thailand and the restaurant have previously held a “Thai Market” event inside the restaurant. The noise level can get quite loud sometimes with the music and surrounding conversations, but it was never to the point I had to yell across the table.
If you haven’t notice, most of the cocktails are named after basketball players! For those who don’t know what drink to order in Pai, I recommend the Thai ice tea! It consisted of a robust tasting black tea mixed with plenty of ice and evaporated milk, a great combination to tackle the spiciness level of Thai dishes.
The soup arrived with a tiny fire at the bottom to keep the broth warm. The soup was fantastic and had a perfect blend of sweet, savoury and spicy. However for $15, there were only 5-6 tiger shrimps and chopped pieces of mushroom, thus I would say this dish wasn’t necessary worth the $15 price tag and it would have been nice if fish was included as well.
I never liked egg noodles so I can’t comment on the taste of the khao soi here, however my friends ordered this and he loved every bites of it.
The green curry arrived at the table in a young coconut shell and you can scrape off the coconut “meat” from the inside which enhanced the eating experience. The curry itself was packed full of fragrant and aromatic flavors, and had the perfect consistency and richness. The chicken pieces were tender and soaked up all the curry flavors. Though it was quite spicy, there was just enough sweetness from the coconut milk to counteract the heat.
*Quick tip: Pay attention when you order any dishes that are being served in a coconut or pineapple shell (like fried rice). If the restaurant is cheap, they will reuse the shells!! However if there are still some “meat” or fruit in the shell. most likely they are freshly used :).
I found the sticky rice to be on the dry side but the pork belly sausages were perfectly cooked. The greatest part of the dish had to be the relish that contained yster sauce and shrimp paste, with some intense flavors, binding all the components together.
Not pictured is the squash fritters, which was also another must. The fritters were piled high and it was not as sweet as sweet potato fries, yet still had the “fries” texture. They were light and crispy on the outside, and fluffy and sweet within, paired up with a nice tangy bright tamarind dip. If you still have room for dessert, I recommend ordering the Mango sticky rice! Occasionally they would run out of mango and serve with a Thai custard instead, and I dislike it as the custard made the entire dish way too sweet. The mango that they use is a bit more tangy which complemented perfectly with the sweet sticky rice, however it would have been nice if they used incorporated black sticky rice for textures.
The only complain I have about Pai is how the service is consistently bad to horrible. The servers always seemed a little forgetful at times when we’d ask them to refill water or extra bowls. Otherwise, my friends and I always had a great meal at Pai. The food was delicious and I’d expect nothing less from the Regulars!