Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Supatra's Thai Restaurant

I noticed the adbandoned Chinese Food type retaurant building on West 7th when we moved in a year ago. I remember thinking to myself, Hmm... That'd be handy. But there wasn't anything in there. It's not on the best block, either. Anyone who's been in Joe & Stan's after midnight knows that things can get a little dicey over there.
When I read that Supatra Johnson had opened a restaurant in that very location, I coudldn't believe my luck! I thought that the construction of a the new Shalom home just a block away was a sign of the neighborhoods along West 7th being on the up-swing, but this was even better! I can go up the hill for something tasty and Kosher, but good Thai food? Either I go to Krua Thai, which is unequivocally the best Thai in town, but their atmosphere is less than... romantic. It's not a date night destination. Or I traipse over to Uptown, only to be let down again.
I was so excited about this prospect that we went rushing in there on a Monday night - the first night we had available for dinner out. I couldn't get over how nice the room was. It was well lit, beautifully and simply decorated. The people that greeted us inside were lovely.
We were seated in the very back corner of the restaurant by the only other two people in there. Slowly, though, more bodies began to arrive. The room was oddly quiet so I was able to overhear every conversation around me. This of course gives me free range to start handing out judgements. The two women seated ahead of us seemed to be a mother/daughter team of the most practical sort. They were both very practically dressed, hair bound back, faces bare from make up. They were carefully counting out their bill and respective tips with the aid of a calculater.
Soon I heard a couple of women seated on the other side of the wall. They wasted no time in begining the examination. "Is this fried? Battered? But sometimes you know, they batter before they stir fry. You don't know, do you." I heard the waitresses soft response. "What about this. What exactly is in there? What is that? Is it raw?" The waitress answered in a low tone. "Wait, no... What's this here? What does that mean? Is it authentic? Where does the chicken come from? Is it white meat?"
"We can prepare it with only white meat for you?"
"Why don't you go find out, first, okay? And I'll have a glass of the Thai Lemonade."
"Um, it's actually, Limeaide. Will that be alright with you?"
"I thought it was lemonade."
"I.. um... I don't think we carry lemonade, but I can check for you."
"Oh, look... it does say limeaide. Hunh. Well, fine then. Give me that."
Gah! How did she stay so nice? That's why I could never make it as a server. Just shut up and go home. Cook your own damn food, if you're so particular!
Thankfully, my eggrolls arrived to distract me. They weren't the typical bubbly Chinese take out egg roll wrappers, nor were they the super thin springroll wrappers that I've had in the past. They were a little thicker, smoother and crisp as a January morning. They were flaky and filled with ground meat and cellophane noodles. We got two for $4.95 and they arrived with a little pool of nice sweet and sour. It wasn't that overly thick candy - type stuff, but it was actually sweet and sour with just the teeniest hint of spice in the background. Tasty! They were gone in minutes - seconds if you were only timing Matt.
A new couple was seated right next to us. The entire restaurant is open, but their seating strategy seems to be, keep them close to the periphery. She wore her hair not unlike the mother/ daughter. Stremlined light brown hair tucked into a cloth binder. He was dressed entirely in black. They talked about every item on the menu. She found something she didn't like with each one. It was kind of sweet. She was clearly trying to branch out of her food comfort zone and her dining companion was trying to help her inch, ever so carefully on. Eventually, she ordered the chicken and broccoli fried rice with no onions. Fair. Onions can get in the way if not used in moderation. When asked for a spice level she said medium. The waitress was positioned between her and me, so she didn't see my head swivel towards her, eyes wide. I hope the waitress knew she didn't mean it.
Our Pad Kee Mao had arrived. Last time I ordered this dish, called Drunken Noodles at the other restaurant, it was wide rice noodles all gelled together with a sweet, soy sauce. The over cooked noodles were gooey and the odd, not at all spicy sauces was not very good. The plate in front of me held what I had been longing for. Thin, round rice noodles studded with onions, holy basil, chicken and tons of chillis. Nice. Matt and I grabbed our portions, him doing his best with the two serving spoons they accidentally have him as utensils. Soon my nose was running and he coughed. This was really hot! Just as promised on the menu! I gave my neighbor a side long glance. Honey, you are screwed.
It only took us a couple of minutes to devour the whole plate. It wasn't just that we were being piggish - because I'll admit we were, it was that the serving size was probably just a little bit more than one serving. We had under ordered our food. Neither of us were really full, but didn't feel like ordering another entree. So we contemplated our next move.
I sipped at my glass of wine with regret. The wine list is pretty bad. There wasn't a single glass on there that I had wanted, really. I think I ordered out of habit. The wines that I remember were Yellow Tail, BV Costal and Jacob's Creek. Each are in the $6-8 price range per bottle at my local liquor store. None are very good. Yellow Tail wine, any variety, is a perversion of the noble grape.
We decided to just come home. As I was plotting the seven things that I'd order the next time I visited we paid the check to the helpful server. Matt ushered me out into the cold, my belly still steaming and cozy. I'd almost forgotten everybody's business but my own.
We slammed the car doors. "I hope that waitress wrote down mild, 'cause that chick ain't gonna be eatin' no medium spice."
It was dim, but I still caught the glimpse of his eyes rolling.


At 2:44 PM , Anonymous andy said...

Of ALL the people in the WORLD to be given two spoons as utensils! MATT! I've been laughing over this for minutes.

At 10:22 AM , Anonymous Peggy said...

Supatra's used to be downtown St. Paul. The girls and I went there a lot. I LOVE the new location - dangerously close to my house. Sigh - McDonald's is hard enough.

Did you notice that Supatra gives Thai cooking classes? The schedule isn't up yet, but I am so there.


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