Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tom Yum Koong

I was recently in West Seattle looking for a Thai restaurant open past 9pm, and came upon Tom Yum Koong on California Ave.

The waitress was friendly and patiently went through the menu with me, interfacing with the kitchen, trying to find something vegetarian (or vegan, as I tend to eat in Asian restaurants). Unfortunately (but not uncommonly), many of the dishes (curries, anything with peanut sauce, soups, etc) already had some sort of non-veggie item included. We ended up with what appeared to be the three dishes that can be vegan: Phad Kee Mao with tofu, Green Beans with tofu, and Tofu salad. Two of these were relative duds, and the third was a great shining star.

The Phad Kee Mao was edible but not spectacular. Probably would have been significantly enhanced by the presence of some non-vegan flavoring.

The green beans, unfortunately, were definitely of the fishy persuasion and I didn't eat them. (Meat eating dining companions didn't complain).

The surprise of the evening was the spectacular Tofu Salad. It came in a huge iceberg lettuce bowl and contained crunchy chopped iceberg, fresh herbs, onion, and tiny rectangles of deep fried tofu that exploded in the the most exquisite bursts of intense salty lime flavor. I had never had anything quite like this before and it was so incredibly delicious.

Some restaurants, like the fantastic Tawan Thai in Fremont, are really set up for vegan cooking, and know how to include and enhance the flavors of Thai cooking without using meat products, but most Thai restaurants simply omit the meat flavors at a vegan request and the result is an oily bland blah. Tom Yum Koong just isn't set up for the vegan/vegetarian crowd, can't really fault them for that.

One small thing I can fault them for is giving us the much dreaded table side spice assessment. We ordered 3 out of 4 stars, and the food came without any detectable spice at all. I'd imagine the kitchen played it safe because of all of my vegan requests. Fortunately they had the standard (I get a warm and loving feeling thinking about it) spice trays with ground dried chili, chili paste, and jalapenos soaked in fish sauce, and the meal was salvaged with these.

Tom Yum Koong on Urbanspoon

No comments: