I am already a fan of “Urban Thai Bistro”, for their straight forward Thai cuisine. And I must not be the only one given their long standing legacy in Yaletown. For nearly two decades this family-run establishment remains, while the two blocks that make up this area have seen favourites flourish and flavours of the month fizzle. “Urban Thai Bistro” is a quick and easy spot of Thai food at reasonable prices. And when you factor in Dine Out, and their $30 three course meal: they become an even better deal during these two weeks. This is especially given how elaborate and dressy each dish was. I was genuinely surprised and impressed. To be honest I expected stir fried noodles, and bowls of curry. But what we got was a modern approach to traditional Thai flavours, presented in a very unique way.
Before I get into more detail, to read up on the restaurant as it is regularly, visit the link below. It covers my first visit as well as more on their decor.
And as always, when it comes to a media tasting: playing and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
For this year’s Dine Out, Executive Chef Somchai promises a $30 multi-course menu that gives a “fresh and exciting take on traditional cuisine from Thailand’s varied regions”. I came with a friend so was able to explore all but one item on their set menu of choices. And given how the others were, I should have inquired about ordering it on the side and paying extra for it.
For appetizers are able to choose one dish out of three. The “Fresh five spiced spring roll” is the one we missed out on. It is stuffed with five-spice braised pork, tofu, egg, beans sprouts, cucumber, and green onion. Which is then all topped off with their Chef’s signature sauce.
But we had no regrets with the “Thai duck dumplings”. However given the “s” at the end of “dumplings” (as it was printed on the menu) we imagine multiples and a dish easier to share. Although, having our single dumpling gift wrapped like this, we were more than happy to receive this impressive plate and split it in two.
Inside the crispy shell hid plenty of nuts and marinated shredded duck meat, all seasoned in Thai spices. However, I really didn’t taste any nuts, not that I wanted to; I don’t think I would have enjoyed its grainy texture. I did find the rest of it a little salty, but the lettuce salad base helped. My guest too liked the salad, but because it reminded her of the thousand island-like sauce in a Big Mac, and she meant this in a good way. Rich and creamy and something to not leave behind on the plate.
Like the dumpling above the “Tom Yum infused shrimp balls” was actually just one ball. It is shrimp paste mixed with tom yum paste and Thai herbs, then coated in breadcrumbs. Another great presentation that had the single ball balancing on a pineapple ring.
Taste wise, it had a nice coconut flavour from the pool of curry that hid within it. A salty surprise, that I found a little too overwhelming; as the dish was missing some tang and freshness. Some shredded cabbage to balance out the rich seafood paste, the crispy deep fry, and overpowering curry. Something the fruit ring could have have helped in, but instead I found its flavour too similar and both together, too much. Some fresh cucumber slices or pickles would have been nice. And some rice would have been even better. In fact, I found most of our meal could have benefited from rice as a base. As, at times I found bites a little too flavourful for my taste, and I would have enjoyed my appetizers and entrees a lot more with a neutral bowl of steamed rice to go with it. Whereas my guest really liked all the punchy flavours she got and continued to rave about the quality and quantity of it all.
For entrees you have one of two choices and I suggest the “BBQ prawns” for presentation alone. Another plate I wasn’t expecting, so was greatly surprised when I saw how large our prawns were, exaggerated with their head and claws. Although, as large as they were, after you peel off its shell and suck out the juices from the head, there really isn’t much actual prawn meat. We were left with lot more rice, than there were prawns to enjoy with it. Luckily the southern style rice salad with coconut milk and vegetable was plenty flavourful, and great as it. A fragrant, sweet and creamy curry; which once again would have been even better enjoyed with a bowl of rice on the side to maximize the curry.
For flavour I direct you to order the “Chiang Mai rice noodles”. It is served with rice stick and vegetable, and then topped with sesame and spicy soy bean paste. The ideal morsel is one piece of beef to every two rounds of rice cake, then you get zesty and spicy beef and the chewy gum of the sweet rice cake together.
For dessert there is just the one option. Everyone ends with the “fresh coconut meat and pumpkin in coconut milk”. I was intrigued by this one, never having pumpkin in a dessert like this. With the same texture it was very similar to sweet potato in colour and sweetness. Together with the slices of fresh coconut meat this dessert soup has you digging deep and slurping up all that sweet, thick and creamy milk to finish. It was also a great end to the rich meal before, a thoughtful palette refresher.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I once only deemed them just as a place for casual Thai food, staples and basics; however after this dine out set, they are no longer just your standard Thai restaurant. By the sounds of things this might be the direction they are taking for 2018, and it literally looks like a good one. Don’t deny your cravings.
1119 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P6