Sour, Salty, Bitter, Spicy, Sweet: Chiang Mai

ChiangMai_restaurant

Chiang Mai
293 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook

Dividing joint possessions is only part of the fallout from a breakup, but what if one of your assets is a restaurant? Such was the case with Kao Soy—whose star precipitously rose after a glowing New York Times review last February—after partners Carlos Padillo and Kanlaya Supachana recently ended their relationship. Padillo retained the year-old Red Hook eatery—that is to say, the name and space—but Supachana, as the chef, walked away with what really matters, and quickly moved her celebrated soup noodles to a spot right down the street. (So much for steering clear of the ex.) So should the quest for kao soy should carry you to 293 Van Brunt, where Home/Made café has leased their space to Supachana for the next six months, keep in mind you’re participating in a turf war of sorts. And then forget about it, because Supachana’s menu at the newly named Chiang Mai is especially ambitious for a transient eatery, with a doubling down on the authentic, Northern Thai recipes she learned from her father.

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If your understanding of Thai cuisine has been duly bastardized by pad thai, you’ll no doubt be drawn to krabong, a trio of lacy banana, papaya, and taro blossom fritters, as undemanding as spring rolls. But for the most part, Chiang Mai is committed to the interplay of flavors that define Thai food—sweet, yes, but also salty, bitter, spicy and sour. Take tum kanoon, which for all the world looks like Carolina pulled pork, but ends up running riot with one’s taste buds, thanks to a starchy paste of jackfruit with smoke signals of curry, a slump of sweet-tart tomatoes, high citric notes of lemongrass and kaffir lime, savory pork cracklings, and fruity buds of fried hibiscus.

It’s also aggressively spicy—a central theme throughout most of Supachana’s cooking—causing her to hover apologetically over your table. She really needn’t worry, as every item achieves ideal balance, the heat never outstaying its welcome. That’s certainly the case with charred ringlets of squid, which deflect flames from an incendiary garlic-lime sauce; matchsticks of green mango shot with sparks of dried chili, propped on lily pads of peppery betel leaves; and crumbly rounds of sai-ua, a rice-bound, deeply herbaceous pork sausage. The heat is mitigated by accompanying rounds of raw squash, spears of cucumber and stems of okra. And if you can clean your plate without having to clean your nose, you’re sure to receive a thumbs-up from Supachana—who deserves all the credit for finishing sweet, when everything could have so easily gone sour.

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