Review: Khao San Road—A Vegan’s PerspectiveSeptember 27, 2011
Today I’m here to bring you my review of the hip and trendy Toronto Thai restaurant known as Khao San Road. And today’s review is extra special because it’s actually a joint review, as I happened to share my meal at Khao San with fellow TO food blogger Katherine from the lovely Drawn & Devoured blog, who is simultaneously posting her review of the place over there. If you don’t already know, Drawn & Devoured is a cross between a restaurant blog and an illustration blog: every week Katherine reviews some Toronto hotspot and illustrates all the food she tried. The result is one of my favorite Toronto food blogs, and one you should all read too! At the very least, you should be sure to read what she had to say about our meal at Khao San, since: (a) Katherine’s review will feature much nicer pictures than the oddly lit photos you’ll find in this post; (b) Katherine is generally a better food writer than I am, which means her review will also be more informative; and (c) Katherine and I never actually discussed what we thought about the food at Khao San while we were there or afterwards, and since I haven’t seen her review before writing this, we may have had wildly different opinions! Oh the mystery!
Anyway, this is all just to say that you should probably stop reading this review and just read hers.
Nonetheless, if you’re still here, here’s what I thought about Khao San.
As soon as we arrived, I realized that Khao San Road takes its title seriously: being the namesake of one of Bangkok’s most famous and busiest streets, the Toronto restaurant has apparently tried to recreate this hustle and bustle inside its own walls, making for an atmosphere that is lively and energetic—or as someone may see it, noisy and hectic. I liked the energy, but it certainly made conversation difficult throughout the night. Maybe this is how all downtown restaurants are like; I don’t go out eating in this area of town much. Still, if you’re looking for a nice quiet meal, be warned: Khao San is probably not your ideal destination.
We started the meal off splitting this Tao Hoo Taud Samoon Prai (Garlic Tofu) appetizer ($8). It wasn’t our first choice, but they were all out of squash for the day, which meant neither the Khao Greup Faktong (Squash Chips) nor the Gra Bong (Squash Fritters) were an option. Thankfully, Khao San did have one more vegan option on their starters menu, which is nice to see, especially when the whole starters menu is only eight items long. As for the tofu nuggets themselves, I was very pleased with the crispy breading, which was crisply crunchy, a texture I could only wish to recreate in my own kitchen. However, the breading itself carried little flavor in my opinion (it was billed as a “crispy garlic and kaffir lime coating”), and the tofu inside was a bit too soft and bland for my tastes. The dipping sauce added a sharp and pungent flavor to each bite, but it felt too much like it was making up for what the nugget itself lacked. So overall, it was a pleasant appetizer, but I would definitely opt for one of the squash varieties next time around, assuming squash is back in stock.
Moving on, my main was the Gaeng Kaew Wan (Green Curry) with tofu ($12). This curry was one of the five or so vegan entrees on Khao San’s menu, and I decided to go with it because it’d been a while since I had a good Thai curry, and since I figured a curry would be a representative dish on which to measure Khao San’s Thai credentials. And I was not disappointed: the curry itself was very good—super flavorful, nicely light, and hitting that upper threshold of spiciness where I was definitely sweating a bit under the eyes but still able to taste everything in all its complexity. I was a little let down by what else was in the curry, though: the tofu was better than the appetizer but still not extraordinary, and the medley of vegetables accompanying it was a lackluster bunch and seemed to be there only to add more volume to the soup, not to bring out any additional flavors of their own. Oh well. Leave it to the vegan to get snooty about his vegetables.
Katherine ordered this Pad Gra Prao minced beef entree ($13). I, of course, did not sample this, so this is just one more reason you should click on over to Katherine’s review and see what she thought. And I can only assume that her illustration of this dish will be more inspired than Khao San’s own presentation turned out.
Overall, my feelings were positive toward Khao San: it’s awesome to see a trendy Toronto restaurant being so accommodating to vegans, and the dishes I tried were pretty good all in all. However, I wouldn’t say that I’m rushing to go back. Perhaps if their use of tofu was a little more noteworthy, or if they served me some more interesting vegetables with my entree, but as things stand, there are much better vegan options in the city.
So that’s what one vegan thought about Khao San. Now, if you haven’t already, go read Katherine’s review and see how she rated—and illustrated—this meal.
Until we eat again,