Mango Thai on Selby

It’s been a while since I did a restaurant review, but tonight I ate a really interesting, beautiful and pleasant meal.  I thought I should share the experience with the general public.

I didn’t realize the little mom and pop Thai place had changed hands until I walked by a couple weeks ago and saw the new awnings and the outside tables.  I kind of enjoyed the last place, but just the name of this new place made my juices start to flow.  Is it just me?  Or is the word Mango exquisitely tempting?  I had to go.  It had to be good.

My friend Annie summed up the style of the place nicely by saying it was totally Ikea. I might qualify that and say it was Thai-kea (like Ikea, but with bamboo and Thai chili peppers). Low key, unpretentious effortlessly sophisticated beyond our range.  What with the varnished plywood tables and bare plywood seating area with pillows, the plastic flower petal lamps, and occasional bare bulb, it was way cooler than us.  The seating we chose was weird and hard to explain other than by saying it was a table set into a sort of stage.  A person has to climb onto the stage and put their feet in the depression left for the table.

The staff was super friendly, all male,oddly enough.  All dressed in what they called Thai fisherman pants and flip-flops.  The effect was artsy and again, cooler than us.

The noise level was just about right.  I prefer a quieter environment, and this was good although it is right on Selby Avenue and the place was full up.  The door was kept open, which did allow for a few persistent flies to land on our stuff, giving Annie the opportunity to remind me that flies land on poop before they land on  your food. Maybe they could invest in a screen door, or little mesh curtain?

We had the mango spring rolls for an appetizer.  The presentation was stunning, with carrot and jicama curlicues on top of a little mound of field greens.  The rolls were sliced at an angle and set upright against the greens.  They were pretty good, stuffed with field greens, avocado, shrimp and mango.  The mango itself was less than stellar, but the dipping sauce rocked my world.  It was a peanut sauce, but much thicker than most of the peanut sauce I’ve had.  It was salty-sweet and a little spicy, and so good we wanted to ask for more to dip our entrees in.  We restrained ourselves.

I got a Thai iced tea, which was very different, and very sweet.  I don’t think I’d get that again.  Annie said it was way better after all the ice had melted.

I got the Laab (also known as cheng mai salad), because I like to try it everywhere I go.  I have had some really bad laab in my day.  This was pretty good.  They got the flavors just right, sour, spicy, salty and full of mint and cilantro and toasted rice powder.  They didn’t serve a lime with it,  or a side of rice which is unusual.  They also got the texture very wrong.  In my experience, laab should be meat with spices, lime, rice powder and chili. It’s dry, a kind of meat salad that you wrap in lettuce of cabbage leaves.  This was all of that, except for the dry part; it swam in a viscous, soupy blob.  Annie and I agreed that it looked more than a little gross.  Once I recovered from the texture and appearance, I ate it all.  I might order it again.

Annie got the pad Thai with tofu.  It was beautiful served on top of a banana leaf, accented by the carrot and jicama ringlets again and nice golden fried bits of tofu.  The tofu was as good as I’ve had, but that’s not saying much.  The noodles were too sweet for me, but Annie liked them.

For dessert we split fried bananas in cinnamon ice cream.  This was delicious and beautiful.  The bananas were so delightfully light and crispy golden on the outside and warm yet firm on the inside. The ice cream was just a little melty, and there were strawberries and chocolate, too.  We couldn’t find a hint of cinnamon, but it really was wonderful just as it was.  If I were in charge, I’d lower the dessert cups from the giant martini glasses to something that the patrons can actually see into.  We couldn’t ever see into the cup, because it was so tall.

Over all I think I’d give it an A minus.  Almost every presentation we saw was gorgeous.  Every smell was fresh and interesting.  All the patrons looked happy and relaxed.  I’ll be back.  The price was middle of the road, it was under 40 bucks for both of us including tip.

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International Relations

Updates:

Libyan guy hasn’t caused any commotion.  He is conscientious and even if he wasn’t, all he has to do is smile and he’s easy to forgive.  He has had no shortage of female attention.  I guess I’ve been out of the market for a long enough time that I got dumb.  He came home on the 5th of July with hundreds (no lie) of mosquito bites.  All over his legs, his back, his arms his neck…  He was miserable for a few days. We couldn’t figure out how someone could get so many bites.

Andy (genius that he is) said, “Maybe were you drinking?”  A sheepish smile.  Maybe a little.  But his friend, “she have so many bites”.  “Did you maybe… Fall asleep?”  Maybe a little.  We didn’t follow up with, “Were you naked?”  But we got the general idea.

A few days later, he brought his cute blond friend in to meet us.  Silly me, I ask,  “Oh!  So do you have lots of mosquito bites, too?”  She looked confused (this where I silently say “shit”) then smiled and said, “Oh, no.  That’s just him.”  I guess it didn’t occur to me that he’d have multiple girls juggled so quickly.

He has a dog phobia.  Even tiny dogs. That’s kind of cute in a way.  I appreciate phobias.  He told us today that Brad Pitt is “Hot” in a very excited way.  He loves dessert, especially brownies and ice cream.

It Is Magic

I have this kid.  He’s 14 and 3/4 going on 10.  Very small, immature by any measure.  He gets into trouble enough that I wince if there’s a phone call from school.  His file of trouble is full of his badness, documented in triplicate.  “Jasper dropped a bean down Leanda’s pants”  “Jasper hit Benji.  Benji hit Jasper.  Jasper hit Benji.” “Jasper didn’t listen to instructions.” “Jasper isn’t working to his potential” “Jasper was saying itch right after Benji said B, and he was putting mashed potatoes in his milk.” “Jasper said he was going to bring a knife to school and kill Meghan.” (that one got taken pretty seriously)”Jasper called me a stinky-buttface”…

He knows everyone in the neighborhood.  Remembers people and their names for years.  Loves people.  Loves them.  Doesn’t always know when he’s annoying them, but he loves them.  He has troubles.  He’s difficult to parent.  He threw violent tantrums regularly until he was medicated at about age 11.  Smashed all his furniture, put holes in his walls, screamed himself hoarse and broke his own toys.  He is almost 15 and he still carries a blankie around, especially if he’s having a bad day.  He doesn’t read or write anywhere near grade-level.  He’s goofy and complicated.

He got himself a job. He got into his head that he would like to work at a neighborhood store, Kortes.  He asked for and filled out an application.  Turned it in and waited.  When he didn’t get a call, he called.  They put him off, saying they’d put his application at the top of the pile.  He asked if I’d drive him there so he could talk to the manager in person.

When he did, the manager tried to talk him out of working at such a young age (14).  “Kid, you don’t need a job.  This is the last part of your life where you don’t have to work.  Enjoy it.”  Jasper said he’d think about it.  He called back and said he really wanted to work there.  After a couple of weeks of Jasper nagging this guy, they finally relented and hired him.  He wears a little blue and black polo shirt, a name tag and black pants.  He loved it.

About two weeks ago he came upstairs and said he couldn’t sleep because he was really sad and worried.  He sat on the edge of our bed and tried to explain why.”I can’t stop thinking about this guy who came into the store today.”  Even after questioning him about what happened,  we couldn’t figure out what was really eating at Jasper.

The customer was old.  Old enough that someone else, maybe his daughter or someone, was driving him to the store to do shopping.  He got his groceries and they were rung up before he realized that he didn’t have is wallet.  The cashier said they could hold the groceries while he went home and got his wallet.  The woman who drove him said that would be fine, but the old man said there wasn’t time to do that.  For whatever reason, the guy left without his groceries and didn’t seem like he was going to be coming back for them.

It was a sad story.  But not one that should be keeping him up at night.  I thought we were missing a piece.  Did Jasper think he should have paid for the groceries for the guy?  Did he worry that they guy wouldn’t have food for the night?  Did he think the woman driving him was being mean?  Was the cashier being rude or mean?  No.  None of that.  He couldn’t say why it was bothering him, but it was.  He was on the verge of tears.  We chalked it up to him being overtired and emotional, told him he did his best and not to worry.  If he had someone to drive him to the store, that person would make sure he had whatever else he needed. He went back to bed.

The following evening, we were driving and he brought this incident up again.  I asked, “Jasper, if this is still bothering you it’s because you feel like you should have done something you didn’t do.  If you figure out what it was, it will probably make you feel better.”  He was quiet.  He sighed.

“Mom… it’s not magic or anything.  It’s not like that.  But I am really good at talking to old people and little kids and animals.  Not like I can read their minds or anything, but I can talk to them in a way that they understand.  Better than other people.  I should have explained to that guy that he had time to go get his money.  I should have talked to him so he would understand.”

The thing is, he’s right.  He does have a gift for that.  When he was in kindergarten, we visited Grandma and Grandpa Morgan.  Grandpa was struggling with a disabling depression.  It was a holiday, everyone was pleasant, Grandpa was soldiering through.  When he sat down at the table, Jasper asked him, “Grandpa, why are you sad?”

I love that kid.

PTDS

So we goes to the dentist.  Sanad and I.  He was very interested in the goings on.  He asked about what kind of instrument the hygienist was using, what size and shape.  They talked in secret dentish language about amalgams and porcelain fillings and recision and other things I didn’t understand.

He watched her, looked in my mouth while she tortured me with that metal stick.  When she took the X-rays, she told me to breath through my nose and  wiggle my toes.  By coincidence, he had just told me about the “dentist’s secret” he had learned in Libya.  That secret was that if you have to do a procedure which might gag a patient, you need to tell them to lift their left leg.  That way the patient would think what he or she was doing had something to do with circulation and be distracted enough that they wouldn’t gag.

He wasn’t impressed when she said, “wiggle your toes, breath through your nose.  It helps you concentrate so you don’t gag.”  He kind of thought he was spilling the beans about the anti-gagging advice.  I almost explained that I a girlfriend in high school had instructed a whole group of us on how breathing through your nose was the best way to keep from gagging.  And she really seemed to know.

Back to the Dentist.  As I was on my back looking at the special pearly light, with the hygienist was poking around the base of my teeth, I had a flashback.  I remembered why it was that I hadn’t been to the dentist for 2 years.  She grazed a nerve.  Just barely touched it enough to make my mouth water and send warning sparks to my brain.  When she did that I twitched a tiny bit.  It was enough to make me remember the last time.

Last time it wasn’t the hygienist, it was the dentist.  He didn’t just graze it, he nailed it with the angled poker of the apocalypse.  Nailed it so good that I actually jumped up from the chair and bit him.  I bit the dentist.  Not hard, but hard enough.  He apologized and only nicked it one more time during the visit.

Turns out that Sanad has worse teeth than me.  He doesn’t floss (he finished dentistry school at home, but to no avail).  So I didn’t have to be embarrassed about my teeth at all.  Having him watch my mouth fill up with spit and blood and get spritzed with water wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Ahem… Awkward

Is it me?  Or is going to the dentist kind of a private thing?  I think of it as more invasive than a gynocological exam.  That may be why I haven’t been for a year or two.  They never should have told me I had such great teeth that I didn’t need to come in every 6 months, I could come in every 9 months to a year.  Wooohooo!  I went a little overboard on the whole deal.

Which is fine.  It isn’t even so terrible going to the dentist nowadays.  When I was a kid, we’d walk up to Dr. Bussen’s office.  Good God, it was like going into the 50s.  The equipment was old, he was old, his fingers were fat, his breath smelled like what I can only call Dental Carrion.  And in the strange karmic-cosmic-ironic-poetic-justice way that childhood has of making sense, it was on the same block as the candy store (have I waxed nostalgic about Roith’s Pharmacy and Kenny’s Market?). I digress.

I have this appointment tomorrow.  And I have this house-guest from Libya.  He just finished dentistry school in his country.  He’s been asking since he got here (2 months) if he can accompany one of us to the dentist’s office while he’s here.  I tried to throw him off the scent by telling him about the neighbor boys’ appointments (both brothers in one fell swoop), but alas, he wants to come with me tomorrow.

Alls I’m saying is it kind of makes me a little icked out.  I can’t say why, but it does.  He better not ask if he can prod my teeth in any way.  Because he can’t.  I’m willing to bet that by 2pm tomorrow I will know why I felt uneasy abou this.  Yeeesh.  I’ll get back to you.