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Friday: ARUN’S!

November 23, 2008

Yesterday was weird… when you only get three hours of sleep, the world looks entirely different. All your movements also seem slight delayed. This might also just be me, since three hours is a third the amount I usually get. We stumbled out of bed and I made breakfast (for myself). Page doesn’t eat breakfast, and I used to feel weird raiding her fridge and cooking for myself, but now I feel comfortable doing it. I scrounged and made myself some oats with a mini banana and a cup of soy milk, since it was light and that stuff is basically the equivalent of water. To the oats I added vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, raspberry jam, and topped it with both smooth and crunchy peanut butter. On the side I had some cottage cheese with cinnamon and chopped apple. It’s strange, since this is actually less than I usually eat for breakfast, but it kept me full until lunch without a snack, and my lunch was lighter than normal!

I felt crazy the whole day, though, and mainly just told people about Twilight.
A glimpse of what we’re doing with our fermented apple juice:
I needed some CAFFEINATED TEA.

For lunch, I ran over to the Business School, since I obviously didn’t pack a lunch, I just got a salad with sundried-tomato salmon.
For some reason, this filled me up. My appetite has definitely decreased. Somebody surprised me by asking, “Don’t you usually eat more than that?”
I also knew that I was going to ARUN’S that night, so I really didn’t want to eat too much. I also knew that I was really underslept, and planned to go home right after school (which ends at 1:45 for me on Fridays!) and sleep. I took the bus and jumped into my parents’ bed, because their room is darker, with the first two twilight books, read a little, and fell asleep. Sometime in that period my dad came in and said he would wake me at 5:3o, since we were getting picked up at 6.
When I woke up the last thing I wanted to do was get up, but I managed to throw some nice clothes and get downstairs, where we were being picked up by a limo!!!
It was strange how many other people were invited… one of them being the AP US history teacher at my school! (Thankfully I’m not taking that class this year)

When we got to the restaurant, it definitely fit the descriptions I’d heard: unpretentious and decorated everywhere with paintings by Arun’s brother. It was small and homey, and Arun was wandering around and saying hi to all of us. Sorry, it was freezing and I’m wearing my dad’s coat, in case you’re wondering “what the hell is she wearing?”
Apparently Korean TV was also there, but I didn’t see them. First, people drank champagne and wine. Then, we sat down, where a 12-course menu had been prepared for us. I’m not sure if the menu is always printed like this, or if it was just because we were a special party. They asked if there were any restrictions, and I mentioned how I eat seafood but no meat. The only problem with this (happened at Moto too) is that they feel compelled to replace every meat dish with a fish or seafood one, when I would be just as happy with some vegetables or tofu. Maybe next time I’ll just say I’m a vegetarian.. but then I would also miss out on a lot. Either way, here were the dishes.
Course 1: Khao Tom– rice porridge with shrimp-stuffed tofu, toped with golden fried wonton; accompanied by minced ginger, scallion, fried garlic and hot mustard.
For me they replaced the wonton with some crispy rice noodles. What I liked about this dish was that the porridge was very authentic homestyle Asian cooking, like the zhou I love. I also liked how the tofu wasn’t fried the way I expected it to be. My only complaint was that even with the accompaniments, it was a little bland.
Course 2: Salad Talay– Garden fresh salad leaves, dressed with spicy lemon-grass vinaigrette, and topped with sauteed calamari, pan-seared red snapper, succulent scallop and batter-fried prwan. This dish, in all of its simplicity, was probably one of the best. The vinaigrette was great, and the prawn was perfectly cooked and tender on the inside. I gave the calamari to my dad because I don’t really like squid, and there was no scallop :(. The red snapper was nice and firm-fleshed.
Course 3: Por Pia Sod (Spring Rolls): vegetable spring rolls with soy sauced tofu, cucumber, scallion and cilantro; graced with sweet and sour tamarind sauce.
The tamarind sauce was sweet, but it had tones of Chinese medicine… I couldn’t figure out why. The spring rolls were also not fried, and they were wrapped with a layer of nori and then a layer of wonton wrapper. I would guess that these were more Pan-Asian. I only ate one, because I knew how much food was left.

Course 4: Kauy Teow Lord (Noodle Roll): fresh rice noodle roll filled with seasoned ground chicken, Jicama and morsels of Dungeness crab; served on a bed of sweet chili-tomato vinaigrette.
They left out the chicken for me. This was a delicate roll, and a lot like the dishes I order at dim sum, but it wasn’t the strongest dish.
Course 5:
This is what everybody else got, and according to them, it was the best dish of the night: Rice noodle rolls in a rich soy sauce with five-flower pork, thin-sliced tofu, shiitake, white cloud ear mushrooms, and soy-flavored egg; accompanied by jalapeno vinaigrette.
Mine (they chose to give me a completely different dish): Wide rice noodles in a pastry ring, set over creamy rich spinach/ sweet pea sauce, topped with threaded prawn, split sugarr snap, and accentuated with baby Shangai bok-choy leaf, crescent shape wonton and coral somen.
It was so beautifully presented that everyone at my table was jealous. Component-wise, this starter was the most interesting. I ignored the pastry ring, but the spinach and pea sauce was 100% western, whereas the flavors in the prawn and bok-choy were similar to the earlier dishes. Since I love peas, this was fun to eat.
Course 6: Everybody else– Larb Kai– minced chicken with fresh herbs; lemon grass, scallion, cilantro, saw leaves, hot chilies, cilantro, and fresh lime juice.
Me: a fish cake over cucumbers and the same tamarind sauce, garnished by a fried leaf of some sort. The leaf was basically tempura, and probably the best part. The fish cake was EXACTLY the same as the one I had last weekend, which made me absolutely positive that the food had been made in the kitchen and then sent over. The lemon grass flavors were a little strong, but by this time I was getting full.
I was happy to find that they served the entrees “family style,” so everybody shared and cook take whatever they wanted. It also sped up the eating process, since I still really wanted to get home and sleep.
We were served rice, and here were the dishes:
Ones I couldn’t eat:
Kai Phad Khing: stir-fried sliced chicken with shiitake mushrooms, sweet red peppers, cloud ear mushrooms, lily buds, Asian celery, scallion and cilantro.
Panang Nua: rich curry of beef, featuring fresh herbs and spices; cooked in coconut milk and accentuated with roasted peanuts.
Larb Chiang Mai: seasoned diced pork stir fried with spices: Kaffir-lime leaves, garlic, cilantro roots and red chilies.

Ones I did:
They stir-fried me some baby corn, eggplant, zucchini, and curry leaves with some shrimp.
Shrimp and asparagus bundle in coconut curry sauce.
Plus my favorite, Goong Mungkorn: succulent lobster ladled with dual sauces: Kabocha-curried and Taro-Portabella.

I loved the contrast of the two sauces: the squash one was full of coconut milk, whereas the taro was thickened by the starchy taro. The lobster was actually half lobster and half scallops, my favorites! I bit into a disc and realized that it wasn’t lobster.

On to dessert:
1) Bua Loy: petite tri-stick rice quenelles in a rich and creamy coconut milk coulis.
First of all, what are “quenelles?” Either way, I was imagining sticky rice cakes drizzled with sauce, but it turned out to be the dessert from last weekend that I loved so much! To refresh your memory, that was the ultra-sweet coconut soup with balls of kabocha, taro, and possibly lychee. I always thought that they had tapioca, but according to Marion, who made them at Arun’s cooking class, the texture comes out of the vegetables releasing their natural starches. Nothing added!
2) Refreshing lychee-Okchla blossom sorbet drizzled with raspberry coulis, accompanied by poached baby pear.
Check out the presentation! We should fan out our poached pears like that. This was a refreshing end.

What did I think overall? To be honest, no one dish popped out at me, but that didn’t mean the food wasn’t great. The presentation, atmosphere, and service were all great. There just wasn’t one thing that made me think “I have to come back and have that again,” or “I have to have another bite of this.” It was also a different kind of upscale food than I’m used to: although there were definite western elements in there, it was still pretty traditional Thai. It’s much easier to be harsh about fancy ethnic food, because often the most delicious places are the hole-in-the-wall shacks. What defines good food? That’s way too broad a question.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    November 23, 2008 9:35 pm

    SCORE! there’s a pic of my shoulder on ur blog! lol
    Just saw T. with philip….he hated it. I thought it was pretty good but they skipped some good stuff. Oh well.
    Arun’s sounds soooo amazing

  2. yoko permalink
    January 20, 2009 7:17 am

    the only thing that was the same from when i went was the shrimp thing that you got (which i thought was AMAZING) and the sorbet cup thing. i am quite surprised

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