Charm interior

Last week, I was fortunate to have been invited to a small dinner hosted by Charm Modern Thai in Yaletown. The dinner was a friendly affair that allowed us to sample new Executive Chef Samnan Kamonroek’s dishes. Chef Kamonroek has been with Charm since 2008, after he emigrated from Bangkok to join the restaurant as sous chef. His culinary experience includes 13 years as executive chef at five star Landmark Bangkok Hotel.

He also works with Pink Elephant Thai’s executive chef, Parichat Poomkajorn, in preparing Pink Elephant’s feature sheet. Pink Elephant is Charm’s new sister restaurant located at 1152 Alberni Street.

[Left: Fish cake, duck stick. Right: Larb gai, fish cake, duck stick, Tiger prawn satay.]

We each started off with an appetizer plate containing sampler portions of lobster bisque, Larb gai, Tiger prawn satay, duck sticks and fish cakes. The soup was creamy, and a plump shrimp greeted me at the bottom of the cup. Larb gai is a minced chicken dish that I hadn’t tried until now, but its flavours burst upon first bite.

Tiger prawn satay
[Tiger prawn satay]

I enjoyed the mildly spiced tiger prawn satay sauce, reminiscent of many Indonesian suppers I enjoyed while living with my husband in The Netherlands. The sauce was creamy and the main things I could taste in it were ginger and coconut. The fish cake was also flavour-packed.

The duck sticks are thin and crispy fried. I don’t normally order fried food, but was happy to try these, made of duck confit and served in a glass with a mild/sweet dipping sauce at the bottom surrounded by a shaving of carrots.

Thai soup noodles

Thai noodle soup was brought out in between the appetizers and entrées. Charm is the only Thai place in Yaletown where you can get soup noodles. Lovely grilled tofu, bean sprouts, fish balls, and a mild broth came together with the flat noodles, all delicious.

Pad thai

I usually order Pad thai at just about any Thai restaurant I dine at, as a point of entry. Charm’s is wonderful, served with fresh bean sprouts and a good portion of crunchy chopped peanuts. The sauce wasn’t too overpowering or too ample a portion, when compared with the other ingredients.

Pineapple braised shortribs
[Pineapple braised short ribs]

Plates of pineapple braised short ribs, Green tea chicken, peppercorn beef, garlic fish (prepared with Basa fillet), yellow curry prawns and Panang curry arrived one after another, for the table to share. To start, all sauces were divine, and thumbs up to chef Kamonroek for making the spices in those sauces work so well with each dish’s ingredients.

The pan-seared Green tea chicken came with a good portion of sautéed vegetables. The dish also contains cilantro, and this dish in particular grabbed my attention when I bit into a piece of chicken together with the cilantro, one of my favourite herbs.

Yellow curry prawns
[Yellow curry prawns]

The yellow curry prawns had a gorgeous texture and were a pleasure to bite into. I did find the sauce a bit overwhelming and wanted to taste the shrimp better. By the time I got to the shrimp, the heat of the sauces – though tasty – kind of wiped out the shrimp’s normally delicate flavour.

Peppercorn beef
[Peppercorn beef]

My favourite dish hands-down is the Peppercorn beef. The blend of ingredients that make up the sauce, those crisp beans, and succulent pieces of beef are a superb combination on the palette.

Panang curry
[Panang curry]

The Panang curry is made with beef brisket and very succulent, together with the creamy sauce that it’s prepared with. Not too spicy, but served on white rice, gives just the right marriage of texture and flavour.

Thai tea ice cream

We rounded off the feast with Thai tea ice cream. I’m not a big fan of black tea, but did have a few tastes for the ice cream’s refreshing value. A few of my fellow guests found it the perfect way to cap off the dishes.

If you’ve wanted to cook Thai food at home, but are short on time, Thai House now offers three curry sauces (red, yellow, and green) that are widely available (Safeway, IGA, Choices, etc.) around town. All three are made with natural ingredients. It’s a simple matter of opening the package and heating it up with your favourite meat, fish, tofu or veggies.

The directions call for heating the sauce in a pan, however we used the yellow curry sauce package by wok-frying fresh spinach and adding leftover chicken and brown rice. Without having to add any additional ingredients (we wanted to taste the sauce without extra ‘help’), the meal was a success. The spices are just right and the hint of basil, coconut milk, and spices came through all the food it was cooked with!

Thai curry sauces

The sauces are easy to port around to your next potluck (for last-minute prep) or even camping. The sauces have been launched in tandem with Thai House Restaurant Group’s 25th anniversary this fall and retail for between $2.95 – $3.95 for a 200 ml package.

Charm Modern Thai, currently celebrating its third anniversary, is owned by restaurateur Desmond Chen, whose other Thai House Restaurant Group establishments include Thai House Restaurant, Chilli House Thai Bistro, Urban Thai Bistro, Samba Brazilian Steak House, and the latest in the collection, Pink Elephant Thai. I imagine that he’s one busy man with such a successful group of eateries.

Charm Modern Thai, Vancouver’s first modern Thai restaurant and bar, is located at 1269 Hamilton Street, and is open for lunch from 11:30 on weekdays and nightly for dinner.

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