Lhy Thai

Back in ’94, when Lhy Thai opened it’s doors, it was the go-to place in Burnaby for great Thai. Soon after that, Boua Thai arrived. With it’s lower prices and heftier portions, Boua became our favorite lunch spot two, sometimes three times a week. It was that good. One day, in the middle of lunch, they were shut down. To this day it remains a mystery. I can’t wait to hear, one day, that Boua has been reincarnated. They were, after all, devout Buddhists! One can only hope…

After Boua closed we visited Lhy Thai several times only to be disappointed by bland fare and small portions. One time, I went on my own for a plate of Pad See Ew. It was the absolute worst plate of Thai food imaginable. Undercooked broccoli, overcooked beef, tough noodles and burnt garlic, to boot. The Tom Yum Gai was as watery as you could make it. I vowed never to return. Then, last week, Benzie and a buddy of his wanted to check out some Asian fare in Burnaby. They wanted to try Lhy Thai. I caved and wound up having one of the best meals of my life.

Lhy Thai is located on Edmonds just east of Kingsway. Not exactly a culinary mecca but there’s a few decent spots in the area. Even on a late Wednesday evening, right before closing, Lhy Thai was around half full. Most lunchtimes the place is packed…most tables reserved. Even the local MLA was seen waiting for a seat!

On our first visit, last Wednesday, I showed up with a dead battery in my camera. I had to resort to my trusty iPhone for a few unspectacular shots.

Some really good Spring Rolls here. They’re jam-packed with carrot, black mushrooms, cabbage and vermicelli. The sprinkling of crushed nuts on the sweet chili sauce was a nice little addition.

The Som Tam (Papaya Salad) was, to put it simply, outstanding. A cool, crunchy combination of shredded green papaya, chili, sugar, lime, fish sauce, tomato, peanuts and shrimp paste. Huge, bright flavors…extremely refreshing at the outset. As one gets to the middle, things start to intensify. Near the bottom, especially beneath the lettuce leaf, you know exactly why it’s labelled “Thai-style” on the menu. By the way, if you ever want things supremely spicy in a Thai resto, just mention “Thai-style” while ordering. That’s the real deal.

Along with those two appies our dinner also included:

  • Stuffed Chicken Wings
  • Chicken Satay
  • Tom Yum Gai
  • Panang Neua (Panang Curry with Beef)
  • Gapow Gai (Basil Chicken)
  • Phat Peaw Wan Gai (Sweet and Sour Chicken)

An absolutely incredible feast all around. So good, in fact, that I got together another gang two days later to try and re-create it for a Friday lunch.

When you can smell the soup as it arrives at your table, you just know you’re in for a great bowl (if it smells good, that is!). Lhy Thai’s Tom Yum Gai (Spicy & Sour Chicken Soup) is wafting with aromatic Kaffir Lime leaves and roasted curry paste. It’s loaded with chicken and mushrooms and freshened with lime juice, scallions and cilantro. Deep, rich and very tangy.

Ever since I saw an episode of Spicy Steve where he goes to SalaThai to learn how to make Stuffed Chicken Wings, I’ve been on the hunt for this sensational appetizer. The drumstick is cut off leaving the wing tip and the middle joint. The joint is de-boned and stuffed with minced chicken, mung bean vermicelli, carrot, mushroom and assorted spices. It’s then breaded, deep-fried till golden and served with sweet chili. There’s a good how-to video here.

A bit labor-intensive but the end result is well worth the effort.

I love Thai curries. Red, green, yellow, Massaman…all of them are great! My favorite, however, is Panang Curry. A bit milder than most but it’s packed with it’s own unique flavors.  The one element that sets it apart, for me, is the addition of peanuts crushed into the curry paste. It gives this particular dish another level of depth. Lhy Thai’s version has a big quotient of chili with fresh hits of lemongrass and coriander seed. Dense, rich and very creamy.

The Gapow Gai (Basil Chicken) came close to rivaling Boua Thai’s. It’s a simple stir-fry of pepper, onion and chicken. What sets it apart is the pungent and highly aromatic Holy Basil. It packs a strong licorice flavor that normal, everyday Sweet Basil doesn’t have. Accept no substitutes!!

The intriguingly named Crying Tiger was a bit of a letdown. Sliced flank is marinated in soy and fish sauce. The dip is supposed to bring a tear to one’s eye. It’s a blend of lime juice, fish sauce, bird’s eye chili, shallot, chili powder and ground toasted rice. The beef was grilled to an overly chewy medium well. The dip had a fair amount of heat but the rice powder, some granules not quite ground enough, wound up like tiny, hazardous rock pellets. Good thing I’ve got decent dental!

As if all this weren’t enough, I surreptitiously ordered a couple more dishes.

I was hoping for another plate of the Som Tam but that wasn’t available. My fallback dish was Larb Nuea (Spiced Beef Salad). As with the Som Tam, this packs a wallop of flavor. Chili-laden beef is tossed with toasted cashews, red onion, scallion, ginger, lime juice and cilantro on a bed of lettuce. Hot, sour, salty and a bit sweet…everything Thai food should be.

On the other hand, very unfortunately, the Pad Thai here, is so very wrong. Why they opt for the tomato version is beyond me. Is tamarind not available? Why the shortcut? I dunno…maybe it’s a regional thing? I don’t get it. All these exemplary dishes and the national dish is goopy with ketchup? Makes no sense.

For really great Pad Thai in Burnaby, you can’t go wrong with either Thai Cafe or Tom Yum Thai, both on Hastings.

Framed award certificates don’t always hold their weight. In this case, they’re well deserved. Aside from a poor Pad Thai, there’s nothing but A-grade Thai to be had. Call ahead, make your reservation, enjoy.

Lhy Thai on Urbanspoon

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6 responses

  1. Awesome Karl. I’m glad they are once again good. Was disappointed to hear it wasn’t good the few times you went. Maybe it was bad luck. WTF with the Pad Thai? That is nowhere like the version I had. Why must they vary like that. I can’t agree with you more about Thai Cafe. The Pad Thai there is very good and they use tamarind! Yay!

    May 5, 2011 at 9:23 am

    • Karl

      Hey Sherman, all I can think of is that there’s some new cooks in the kitchen. How else can the quality and styles change up so much? If you like Thai Cafe’s version, you would of looooved Boua’s. Tom Yum’s is very good, too. A bit on the sweet side, though. Check out their curries…they’re awesome!!

      May 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

  2. LotusRapper

    Ouch that pad thai belongs in a mall food court !

    Best pad thai I’ve had (so far) in Vancouver (never been to Thailand) is Thai Basil in downtown, and Wimaan on W. Broadway.

    But the rest of their dishes here look more than decent. Will need to bookmark this place in my head next time I’m in the area.

    Since you’re up on Edmonds St, I heard there’s an authentic NE Chinese resto there called Countryside NE:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/712021

    Wonder if they’re still there ?

    May 5, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    • Karl

      It wasn’t the best. Seems strange an authentic Thai kitchen could bollox the national dish up so badly.

      Went back again today for a lunch special. Went for the Phrik Phao with pork. Great flavors…not the heat I’d asked for though. Seems lunch service is geared down for the locals…no big punches. Give them a try for dinner and ask for Thai-Style and give me a holler if you do!!

      May 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm

  3. That all looks so great. I’ve always wanted to be one of those girls that went out and ate and tried new things…just need a wallet to allow it 😉

    May 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm

  4. You got me drooling over these delicious photos! And oh what delicious torture,looking at that stuffed chicken wing made me wish I could reach out and grab it from the screen. Thanks for the tip on how to make it,Id love to try that soon.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:59 am

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