Maenam: Sinfully Scrumptious
1938 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver
Maenam is a modern and romantic Thai restaurant on West 4th Avenue in Vancouver. It’s the perfect place for a late night dinner after a movie at Fifth Avenue Theatres. The first thing I noticed when we walked into the restaurant was the wonderfully warm but also spacious dining area. The front dining area at Maenam consists of a few tables and booths, and somehow creates a cozy but also non-cluttered ambiance.
The servers were very attentive and patient in explaining each dish to us, even rating the hot and sour soup out of 10 for spiciness. I have to admit that I am quite wimpy when it comes to spicy food, and must almost always be armed with a tall glass of water or bowl full of cool yogurt when eating any sort of curry, spiced soup or chili. So when our server told us that Maenam’s hot and sour soup only rates 2 out of 10 on his scale of spiciness, I jumped at the chance to order it.
The soup was served in the most interesting metal bowl that kept the soup warm while we were eating it. The middle of the bowl featured a tube that was heated in the bottom by a flame, it was practical and stylish. Although when I asked the server to rate the soup out of 10 for spiciness, I should have really qualified my question by asking him what his level of tolerance for spiciness was because for me, the soup seemed more like a 6 out of 10 for spiciness. But boy, was it ever delectable. Even though my tongue was slowly catching on fire, I couldn’t stop drinking the soup. And the flavours inside the soup are so multifaceted, complicated, and intertwined, it is going to be hard for me to describe in a brief blog post. The clear broth, although, unsuspectingly spicy was also layered with bursts of refreshing citrus. There were also large chunks of tender sablefish that had soaked up the cooling flavours of dill and hits of spice from one single bright orange hot pepper that was floating around the bottom of the soup bowl. There were also soft mushrooms and crunchy bamboo shoots throughout the soup adding more texture and folds of flavour to an already sophisticated soup.
We also ordered another small starter: the crispiest, flakiest, lightest roti I have ever tasted. The roti was a perfect accompaniment to the hot and sour soup, contrasting the tongue-tingling aftertaste of the spicy broth with comforting deep fried layers of bread.
For entrees we ordered the Mussaman Curry Lamb Leg and the Pad Thai. The Mussaman Curry Lamb Leg was deliciously mild–although, my taste buds could have been numbed by the ultra spicy hot and sour soup at this point. I would have liked the curry to have had a more creamy consistency but the thinner, more liquid curry actually made it easier to mix in with our side of steamed jasmine rice. The lamb leg was incredible, soaked in all the spiced richness, and cooked to such a tender degree that it literally fell right off the bone and would break apart at the slightest touch of my fork. The pretty little pearl onions and diced pineapple throughout the dish also added a wonderful sweetness to the curry.
Pad Thai is one of my favourite noodle dishes but I am always apprehensive about ordering it in a restaurant for fear that I won’t like the restaurant’s rendition of the traditional Thai dish. I was not disappointed at Maenam. The noodles came to our table proudly piled tall on a white dish with a dash of hot chili powder adorning one corner of the dish. As much as I tried to stay away from this dash of hot chili powder, after I mixed up the dish of noodles, I always managed to accidentally scoop up a little on the end of my fork. And actually, the quick hit of spice really brought out the other incredible flavours of tamarind, lime juice and peanuts in the Pad Thai. I also loved the al dente noodles, and the gigantic prawns perched on top of the noodles.
And last but certainly not least, we ordered a dessert that is curiously not featured on the menu but it really should be: the mango sticky rice. The sticky rice drenched in a sweet, creamy coconut syrup with strips of lusciously ripe mango and a sprinkle of black sesame seeds was sinfully scrumptious. It was the perfect sweet ending to a very satisfying, decadent meal.