When I eat Thai food I like to feel like I’ve gone to a real place. And when I say “real place” I don’t mean I feel like I “traveled to Thailand in my mind’s eye and it’s like I could smell the night market and I WAS ACTUALLY THERE, BROHEEM.”
What I mean is, I like Thai cuisine that is so spicy/aromatic/bold-in-a-not-Guy-Fieri-wigging-out-on-Hot-Cheetos way that it compeltely takes me out of my comfort zone. I like Thai that isn’t a pabulum of passively agreeable sauces and bland bean sprouts that everyone concurs is “kinda fine, I guess.” Like a good Velvet Underground record, I like Thai food that takes chances, that doesn’t try to please everyone just a bit, and even maybe tries to make you a little uncomfortable.
If Thai makes me wince a little, because it’s taken a chance with the fish oil or the peppers - then double-plus good because that’s when I feel alive and remember why I liked eating new things so much in the first place.
That’s going to a real place to me: Thai as the polar opposite of bland comfort food. And very few places get realer than Thai Town’s Pa Ord Noodle.
To be sure, their mild is your spicy. They DO NOT play it weak n’ safe. But to call Pa Ord a spicy gimmick shack is to ignore the simple, effective, uncompromising dishes they churn out. To wit:
The spicy catfish. It’s simple to the point that the catfish hasn’t been deboned. They obviously took a meat cleaver, sectioned that sucker up, pan seared it, doused it in their fiery curry sauce and why not a bunch of hot peppers, and voila. You’ll be picking microscopic bones out of every bite. And it is absolutely delicious.