The crispy green 'morning glory' plant can only be used a few weeks per year, so now is the time to taste this delicacy.
By STEVE LINDE, LINDA LIPSCHITZ
Thai food has become one of the world's most popular cuisines, and if you want to try it at its best, this restaurant is a great place to start.
Opened 11 years ago by Yariv Melili and his Thai wife, Lek, it resembles a bamboo home in northeastern Thailand, and offers a wonderful array of dishes from that region.
"Everything here is healthy and fresh," Melili says as he joins us before the meal, noting that even the coconut sauce is made on the premises.
However, if you like coconut milk delicacies, be careful not to fill up on appetizers. We started with several, of which the "Som Tam" (NIS 26) was the most interesting. Comprised of fresh green papaya thinly sliced and served with cherry tomatoes, beans, ground peanuts, garlic and lemon juice, it was the perfect way to start a meal on a hot summer night.
Also interesting, and as tasty, was "morning glory" (a crispy green vegetable and leaves) served with chicken, pork or beef. The "morning glory" plant can only be used for a few weeks per year, so now is the time to taste this delicacy.
For those ready to try something more exotic, "Moo Yan" is marinated roast pork with a hot chilli sauce and peanuts (NIS 32), and "Yam Wun-Sen Goung" (also NIS 32) is a delightful shrimp cocktail with fresh vegetables, transparent noodles and hot peppers spiced with chilli sauce and lime juice.
Next came the main courses, and the best we had was definitely "Gaeng Kiao Waan Goung" (NIS 69) - a casserole cooked in coconut milk flavored in southern Thai island style, consisting of chicken strips, prawns or pork with eggplant in a green curry, and presented with fresh lime and basil leaves - giving it a wonderful aroma.
Other specialties include "Khanom-Chin Naam Kati" (also NIS 69) - another coconut milk casserole with red curry, fish gravy, fish balls and herb roots on a bed of noodles crowned with basil leaves and fresh vegetables; and "Tom Kha Gai (NIS 58), which is chicken strips sea food or tofu with mushrooms and onions, spiced with coriander, Thai herbs, roots and sourish spices.
We didn't have the appetite to try a main course sauteed in a wok (ranging from beef to calamari) or a noodle dish (rice or egg noodles with everything from scrambled eggs and spring onions to duck pieces and bean sprouts). But we did manage to find room for two wonderful desserts: one was freshly sliced mango served on sticky rice; and the other an ice-cold coconut-and-tapioca drink.
Speaking of drinks, the restaurant offers everything from Thai beer to more serious alcohol choices, as well as fresh fruit shakes that include coconut and pineapple juice (very refreshing, though a bit sweet.)
Melili told us how he struggled when he first opened the restaurant, taking out loan after loan. But today, 11 years and three children later, the place is very popular, and reservations are recommended. As we left, we heard a couple being turned away.
By the way, if you want the whole experience, there's a Thai massage parlor just down the road on Ben Yehuda where you can have a half-hour foot massage (before dinner is better, if you're prepared to risk being put to sleep!)
Yariv and Lek Melili are friendly and hospitable, and offer a great escape for those who don't have the time or money to fly to Thailand for a meal. For Yariv, who worked as a fisherman there for a year, food is a way of life, and his philosophy is to cook and serve everything as fresh as possible.
"I used to peel the coconuts myself, until we got a special machine last year to make coconut juice," he says.
Eating their food is like eating at a top restaurant in Thailand; it may be a little more expensive here, but definitely worth it. A truly yummy experience.
The Thai House, Bograshov 8, Tel Aviv. Open noon to midnight daily; (03) 517-8568. Not kosher. Business lunches and take-away service are also available.
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