Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seeing Friends and Eating Seafood at Thai Flavor of Aurora

A few weeks ago, my family and I had the pleasure of once again sharing a dining table with Mark Antonation, who now has a public forum for his food eating opinions at Westword.com; Denveater, who writes what I consider our city's best all-around food blog; and Denveater's partner in life, food and most importantly, film, the Director,  We broke bread-- or noodles-- way out in the heart of Aurora, at an East-side favorite of mine, Thai Flavor. Here are some snippets from our subsequent email conversations about that night. For some more on Thai Flavor, check out Denveater's post, and for all your adventures on the Peoria Street of Denver, check out Mark's blog on Westword's Cafe Society, A Federal Case.




Me: I cannot recall the name of my entree. That is not to say it wasn't memorable, but I was distracted at times from my meal and otherwise stimulating conversation by the throwing of broccoli, tossing of rice and an admirable go at ripping to shreds an entire phone book. Yes, as you may recall, my boys were there, who are in the full throes of their terrific twos. So what can I say about my entree? I remember liking it. And I remember the big chunks of calamari, the 2 or 3 well-cooked mussels, the shrimp and the sweet sear of my not-too-spicy sauce.


DVI agree we were all a bit distracted...not just by little squirmers! It was also that we were sitting at a table near the entrance in the middle of the room in broad daylight. It's always hard for me to concentrate when I feel like we're circling our wagons on the prairie. I definitely get that old urban myth about mobsters insisting on sitting with their backs to the walls. And there was lots of back-&-forthing with the adorably gregarious old guy who, I assume, was the owner.

Me: I take responsibility for all that. Eating at 5pm is now the standard for my family, and we were headed to a nice booth in the back, but I thought the boys would be best entertained sitting by the fish tank up front-- they were, for about five minutes. 

MA:  The giddiness of the two toddlers who shared our table may have rubbed off on me (Me: That is the nice was to say, "Your babies are fucking nuts!"). Concentrating on food took a vague second – or even third – place to catching up with Denveater, the Director, and the Denver-on-a-Spit family. The other customers and the good-natured proprietor further distracted me.

Me: I liked the first couple of shared appetizers best. It may be that at that point my boys were happily tearing through a plate of fried rice which left me free to indulge my attentions to the dishes at hand, or it may be that that eggplant salad, with its soft, not-bitter-at-all Chinese eggplants, steamed shrimp and fried egg was just a fabulous and unique plate. I have to say, I love a salad where the only greens are a few sprigs of basil.



MA: What stood out to me above the sauces and proteins were a few unique preparations and ingredients that I’d never experienced before. Was the eggplant in that salad pickled, or just cooked to bring out the crisp freshness of a vegetable that generally flaunts its dull, spongy, and mushy attributes? It certainly had the firmness and verve of a farmhouse pickle. 

DV:  The marinated-eggplant salad with shrimp, strips of sweet omelet, red onion, & basil is the masterpiece here. It's so colorful & unusual: by turns tangy & delicated, sharp & soft, crunchy & silken-textured.

Me: And the same might be said for the fish cakes, though in a different way. The crunchy, thick fried fish mash was balanced perfectly by the fish-sauce-laden spicy cucumber-peanut-cilantro salad that accompanied it. I loved that dish.



DV: I don't think the fish cakes themselves or the fried catfish were quite as successful, simply because they weren't quite hot enough to remain ultra-crisp for long. The potential was there, though—both dishes were put together well, the coating was deft, the flavors clear & bright. 

Me: Quite so. I didn't love the catfish for that reason, and in times past, those fish cakes have packed more crunch.



MA: Those quartered bites of Thai green eggplant in the fried catfish also had a little snap, more like a lightly sautéed green tomato, but with just enough meatiness to absorb the heat and pungent flavors of the sauce.

DV: The key difference between mediocre & quality Thai, in my book, is that the latter is surprisingly subtle. People often refer to the importance of balance between the elements—sweet, spicy, salty, sour, bitter—and while I agree with that, I'd add that the ideal result is above all refreshing; the brushstrokes aren't as bold as they are in, say, Malaysian/Indonesian/Singaporean cuisine. Seemed to me Thai Flavor nailed that distinction in almost all the dishes we tried: from the steamed mussels with a vibrant dipping sauce—not the ubiquitous, neon-pink, sweet-chili stuff but just a simple blend of fish sauce, citrus, & fresh chilies—to Mantonat's jungle curry & our seafood stir-fries, which were all exceptionally light, fresh, crisp, & peppery. The seasoning showcased the main ingredients rather than the other way around. 



Me: True, though I wasn't overly impressed with the spiciness at Thai Flavor. I did only order "hot" and not "Thai Hot", Nevertheless, the man who seemed to be the owner did give the typical Thai-friendly polite-though-scoffing laugh of caution about ordering too hot, so I expected a little more burn and nasal clearing from my dish. But the jump up to Thai Hot might be exponential. And for an extra fun kick, the one condiment with the mix of red and green sliced peppers was tremendously hot, and so I did get that familiar Thai burn that builds and builds past heat, through pain and to a sort of numbed pleasure-state that I so often strive for when I eat Thai.

Overall I like Thai Flavor a lot, and I still feel like there is a lot on that menu that I want to try. Clearly the specialty is seafood, but most of what we had was so good it would be worth checking out as much as possible on that menu. I have a feeling we'll all be back in this part of town sooner than later, because the allure of international eating variety in that neighborhood is too much to resist. 

Thai Flavor on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

  1. The meal looks and sounds wonderful, and I can almost smell the enticing aromas from your words and pictures. But it's been decades since I had a toddler (and never two), so the ambiance seems exhausting! What did Thai Flavor have for the boys -- or do they eat what the gown-ups do, as befits an adventurous foodie family? - Claire

    ReplyDelete
  2. They had fried rice with veggies and mango sticky rice. nothing too exciting but beats Gerber.

    ReplyDelete

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