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Creamy, smoky, spicy abb ong oor is pork brain seasoned with turmeric, chile, and lemongrass, then grilled in a banana leaf.
As for the tail, you can find it in leng zabb, which features hunks of slow-cooked pork spine looming above a bright broth that balances the acidity of fresh lime juice with the funkiness of fish sauce and the herby spiciness of green bird’s eye chiles, minced garlic, and cilantro.
Sections of the menu are labeled “Food to Die For” and “Something So Special” and the dishes within them tend to earn these distinctions.
The “egg sandwich” — which turns out to be richly sauced, sticky chunks of stir-fried pork, scattered across one shatteringly crispy fried egg and topped with another, plus basil — is the sort of thing you might think about wistfully until you get to eat it again.
When betel leaves are available, it’d be nothing short of a mistake to skip them, wrapped around a heady mixture of fresh ginger, coconut, dried shrimp, and shrimp paste, plus peanuts and chiles.
And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better khao soy, the northern-style, coconut-based, whole-chicken-leg curry, made golden with fresh turmeric and featuring homemade egg noodles.
The words “nose to tail” don’t appear anywhere on the menu, but they certainly inform the cooking philosophy: Sai aua sausage hums with chile and lime leaf, and sports crunchy white flecks of pig’s ear.
The reasons for this success are clearly visible in the form of the raw-shrimp salad, redolent of lime and garlic; the panang duck curry, with its pinpoint calibration of sweet, sour, and spicy; the crisp, lacy catfish salad; and the mango sticky rice, a dissertation in ripeness.
Factor in the super-friendly service, the cheerful décor, and maybe a tableside visit from chef Duangjai “Kitty” Thammasat, and you have one of the city’s best Thai restaurants.
But the savory-snack menu has expanded to such a degree that that’s no longer necessary — especially if you’re in the mood for a credible khao soy, or one of the over-rice dishes, including what passes for American fried rice in Thailand (it involves fried chicken, hot dogs, ketchup, and a sunnyside egg).
For dessert: a coconut-ice-cream sundae, showered with peanuts, palm seeds, sweet-potato cubes, and a healthy splash of condensed milk.