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My first DineOut Vancouver experience was a last minute decision made the day before at the trendy and chic Maenam on 4th just off Burrard.
Brian and I have a soft spot for Thai food. I had been asking him to pick off the list I compiled and he liked the menu here.
We arrived shortly after 6:30pm on a Tuesday evening and it was pretty busy. But with so many great restaurants on 4th, it’s never a surprise when a place is busy around here. We were greeted right away and promptly seated up top. Our server greeted us and explained the menu isn’t a regular dine out menu: we could choose a starter, salad, curry and stir fry to share amongst us both and then a separate dessert. Interesting.
For our starter we chose Hot and Sour Soup of Halibut, the salad: Palm Sugar Caramelized Pork Belly, the curry: Panaeng curry of beef chuck, the starry: 8 spice fish and for dessert: nam kana sai and dark chocolate pot de creme.
Not very long after we had ordered, our soup arrived. The description on the menu says “fried chillies, thai basil, intense aromas and flavours” – they are not kidding around when they’re talking INTENSE. Thinking nothing of the warning, I sipped my first spoonful thinking it would be like any other kind of tom yum and then BAM! I was hit with – yep – the intensity of the flavours in the soup. It was spicy from the chillies, sour from what I think might be lime or lemon and most of all it was very aromatic. I enjoyed this soup and I think this might be my favourite place for tom yum now. The mushrooms and halibut just soaked in the broth’s flavours and if it weren’t for the spiciness, I would’ve licked the bowl clean.
Our mains came together. First up, the Palm Sugar Caramelized Pork Belly – in the words of my husband, “If you made this for me every day, I would eat this kind of salad.”. The pork belly was so soft and tender – not what I’m used to from other asian restaurants. Glazed with caramelized palm sugar and it was heaven to my mouth. It was tender, sweet and almost-sticky as the sugar melted in your mouth along with the fattiness from the pork. The pork belly chunks were tossed with coriander, shallots and garlic which help brighten up the taste of it by complimenting the sweetness with freshness. Brian and I agreed that this was our favourite dish of the night.
The 8 Spice Fish was ling cod drizzled with caramelized tamarind and palm sugar. While the fish was tender, meaty when you ran a fork through it, I felt that this dish was the weakest of all the ones we had. I guess the tamarind and palm sugar was a little more understated compared to the crazy flavourful tom yum and the equally delicious pork belly. Had I ordered this dish by itself, I’m sure it would’ve been great on its own.
And our Panaeng Curry of beef chuck. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that all the ingredients are local and fresh or if it’s just the perfect harmony of all the spices and ingredients that made the curry taste like I’ve never “experienced” curry before- but it felt like I was a born again curry lover. I think I would’ve loved it more if instead of beef chuck it had a different cut of beef.
Our selections came with a bowl of rice – a bigger one than the ‘one serving’ that most asian places give, but definitely enough for two people.
Finally, we moved on to our final course: dessert!
Brian had the Maenam’s Nam Kang Sai – consisting of “shaved coconuts, candied thai fruit, jasmine perfumed pandanus syrup”. I had a little bit and it was fantastic, it reminded me a lot of the Filipino equivalent: Halo Halo but I appreciated this one far more because of the more simplistic ingredients.
I had the Dark Chocolate Pot De Creme: sea salt, tamarind tuile and tamarind semifreddo. First of all, I’m a sucker for chocolate so of course I had to go with whatever was chocolate on the menu. I took a spoonful of the top part, thinking it was chocolate and was appalled that it was not. Brian looked at me funny and hesitated to try it – but after a moment, reeling from the surprise sour taste (as opposed to the sweet chocolate taste I was expecting) I took another scoop. Tamarind. Mmm. Brian took a scoop and he liked it too. Now it isn’t TOO sour, it’s actually refreshing after our big meal of flavour explosions.
The crispy tamarind tuile complimented the flavour on top – and maybe I was supposed to mix it up, but I decided to eat the top part first. The chocolate underneath was just as interestingly flavoured – sprinkled with a little sea salt gave it a salty-sweet taste that balanced well.
Maenam is definitely a hit in my books and I was pleasantly surprised at a couple things: 1) that the service was great – regardless of the fact it was for DineOut Vancouver, 2) the menu was thought out carefully and had great variety and 3) although you may read the menu, the food still surprises you when it comes to the table. Love it.
I love the colour scheme of this place, it’s very neutral and natural. The colours are all very wooden and earthy but isn’t too dark or too bright. It’s clean, the space is very open and there’s enough elbow room for everyone.
Check out their website (with menu) here.