Today I was at “Wara Thai Eatery”, to check out yet another Vancouver Foodster Chicken Wing Challenger. The competition that pits local restaurants against one another in order to declare their wings the best in the city. This year we had 5 restaurants, and I was one of the judges given the responsibility of finding the winner based on presentation, taste, and originality.
And “Wara Thai” was clever to use this platform as an introduction to their new restaurant, which at this time has only been open for 3 months. Although the husband and wife team are not new to the food serving game. They currently still operate “Wow Thai” located in “Tinseltown” aka “International Village”. There, they offer up their authentic Thai cuisine to diners on the go and the lunch time office crowds. And they aren’t your typical food court stall, with them ingredients and craftsmanship matter. Made to order curries and fresh Thai favourites. Their consistent cuisine has earn them a fan base. And these loyal customers have encouraged them to open this restaurant so that they can enjoy “Wow Thai’s” food, in a more private setting. So here they are, after 4 months of renovations in a space that was still “under construction”.
The exterior wasn’t eye catching, as was it pretty unspectacular inside. Nothing noteworthy other than the “work in progress” murals. Thick black lines began sketching out clouds, water, and characters with bold expressions. Although it was a shame that it wasn’t completed, to be able to give a great first impression to new customers and first time diners. Other than it, the generic art on their all white walls, and grey upholstered booths; their decor really didn’t speak much to the colourful and vibrant offerings. Nor did their menu in black, white, and red. Though, I did like their piggy logo.
When we asked about the unfinished art work the owners did explain that they are currently focusing on their food and service, and as a new establishment, more is yet to come as they grow their brand. They are even planning a trip back to Thailand to collect some artifacts and add more of a visual authenticity to the place.
We started with some Thai ice tea. As the only Thai restaurant in the blossoming area, I wanted to taste the classics and see how they stacked up as the go-to for authentic Thai cuisine in the neighbourhood. With this, they were off to a good start. Perfect in orangey colour and flavour, a refreshing caffeinated beverage I would back just for. I wonder if they have to-go cups?
Next we had the “Larb wings”, the chicken wing challenge contender. This was not on their main menu, but I hope finds its way there, as they literally cause you to lick your fingers clean. These were deep fried chicken wings seasoned with their special “larb sauce”, a mix of lime juice and Thai herbs, giving each crispy wing a nice glaze. The flavour was original, offering tangy notes, a hint of sweetness, and some kick to a familiar classic. It was well balanced and served at the perfect temperature. You find yourself going back for more, almost forgetting the tasting and wanting to experience it new all over again.
Similarly, they had a neat twist on papaya salad. Their version was made crunchy with a quick deep fry. This too wasn’t on the menu yet. Shredded green papaya, green beans, and tomato slices battered and deep fried. Served with its dressing as a dipping sauce on the side, you choose how much tangy fish sauce you wanted with your crunchy salad. And this way things stayed crispy until you wanted to eat it. This was the same papaya salad flavour you enjoy, but with a whole new texture to work through. Even if you aren’t a fan of papaya salad, you will be a fan of this one. Proof that deep frying makes things tastier.
I wasn’t a fan of the “Chicken satay”. The Thai peanut sauce and Thai cucumber and red onion relish were good, but I found the chicken itself hard and dry. The menu listed these chicken tenders were marinated in fresh Thai spices and coconut milk, but I couldn’t taste either. It had a flat flavour and could have use some char or a similar glaze to the wings above. It should already be tasty and the satay sauce used to elevate that taste.
“Pad Thai” is a go-to for adventurous and cautious diners alike, so I wanted to see “Wara Thai’s” take everyone’s favourite Thai noodle dish. Stir-fried rice noodles in tamarind sauce with egg, red onion, chives, bean sprouts, shredded carrot, and basil. We had our choice of protein from pork, chicken, or tofu; and went with the latter as we had three other chicken dishes, and I never had pork with my pad Thai before. Premium protein options are also available for more. Beef for $1, shrimp for $2, and extra of any of the above for $2. My guest though the pad Thai had a bitter taste to it. I noted it as a tangy, tongue puckering note that each bite ended on. Neither good or bad, just there. Overall a decent serving of pad Thai piled high.
You don’t often see “Khao soi” on menus, so I had to try “Wara Thai’s” version. A mix of boiled egg noodles and deep fried crispy egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallot, lime and chicken drumstick in a curry-like coconut soup. It had some medium level heat to it, but was balanced by the coconut cream in the broth. I would definitely recommend this one for those who love chewy noodles and a sweeter, creamier soup. I would be just as happy with only the noodles in soup, but this way everything else that came with it, was a bonus.
And for dessert we couldn’t walk away without trying their “Sweet coconut sticky rice with ripe mango”. Originally I was eyeing their jackfruit version, where they stuff the jackfruit with the sweet coconut sticky rice. However, we were told that the fruit is from a can, and the one to order was the mango; seeing as it was in season and the chef really prides herself on acquiring the sweetest mangos for her dessert.
In fact, the chef chooses majority of the ingredients herself. She wants to take the time to ensure that she is getting the best produce. She shops from different markets, knowing where to go for the best. And all this definitely came through in this dessert. This was honestly one of the best mangos I have ever had. It was so sweet and flavourful that I wanted to eat it separate from the coconut milk drizzle and sticky rice; even though those two were tasty as well.
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? – Yes.
The aforementioned focus on food and service really showed. On several occasions the chef personally came out to deliver her dishes to each table. She presented plates and took the time to converse and solicit feedback about the meal. She was really creating rapport and building up her clientele. After all what makes a meal at your favourite restaurant is more than just what’s on your plate. At “Wara Thai” it is the people behind the scenes recreating family recipes with heart and integrity of product. Don’t deny your cravings.
509 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2V1
For more on the challenge and how you can play judge and vote for your favourite chicken wing dish, visit the link below.