Eats, Chews and Leaves: The succulence of Thai Lemongrass

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I remember when UVic recruiters visited my high school, telling everyone that doing homework at the beach was part of the UVic experience. I recall shiny brochures bursting with photos of West Coast waves and downplaying the tuition fees. I grew up among farm fields and looming mountain ranges in Chilliwack, so the calming tides of Victoria were a huge draw for me. Three years later, I spend every day on campus in front of a computer, far away from the sand and driftwood. So, my friend and I recently broke free of our interior environments to stroll by Cadboro Bay.

We discovered Thai Lemongrass Restaurant and couldn’t pass up a visit (the sea air makes one frightfully hungry).

When we arrived shortly after 6 p.m., the restaurant yearned for customers. Around 7, the space filled quickly. From what I witnessed, Thai Lemongrass has cornered the market on the affluent Cadboro Bay market that is hungry for Thai cuisine. Group after group of well-dressed and well-spoken people paraded past our table, sneaking sideways glances at our food, as one should. The food not only deserves sideways glances, but also full-on stares. It’s good.

I started with a small bowl of tom kha goong ($7.75), a sour coconut soup dotted with mushrooms and prawns. The broth stands out, even among the tender mushrooms and large, sweet prawns. Flavoured with lemongrass, ginger, a touch of Thai chili paste and cilantro, it’s almost too perfectly balanced to describe — a blend of citrus from the lemongrass, spice from the ginger and chili, sourness from the cilantro and sweetness from the coconut.

My friend and I went halfsies on the main courses, splitting the prawn phad Thai ($13) and the moo kratiem, or garlic pork ($12). I have to order phad Thai when I am at a Thai restaurant, and my friend’s affinity for pork made her decision easy. I’m glad she insisted on the crispy, bite-sized pieces of pig. Personally, I would have overlooked the dish, but consider it if you visit. Served on a bed of lightly sautéed bok choy and bean sprouts, the garlic pork escaped the heavy, deep-fried taste it could have possessed. Ask for a side of rice to mix with the bean sprouts, and it’s a complete meal.

The phad thai made me wish I had a bigger stomach. The wide, flat rice noodles held the generous portions of egg, tofu and prawns without being overshadowed. A scattering of carrot, peanut, bean sprout and lime freshened each bite, already balanced with the tamarind sauce — a sweet and sour Thai staple. Despite being comfortably full midway through the meal, we pressed on. We deemed the dishes too good for leftovers.

For those who need a reason to step off of campus, to turn away from the computers for an hour or so, or to just remember their love for Thai cuisine, Thai Lemongrass Restaurant should be your reason to venture down to Cadboro Bay.

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