Delicious dishes you won’t share
A wacky Black Friday weekend had Joey re-entering the Great White North with a cold, and I had just the cure for what ailed him. Him, and my own trembling heart. It was food I had come to know and love quite well, having struck the wok myself for two good years of my life. So it was no wonder when just a week earlier, we passed what I had reviewed last February as the Sushi Boat, sunk, and salvaged now into the Red Ginger Modern Thai-Viet Cuisine restaurant. Yes, another place built on what seems to be one of the city’s many cursed locales. Will it last? Time, obviously, will tell.
At the risk of sounding redundant, I was nagged by the strange feeling that I had been there before. I was jaded, yet again. Black and red walls, dim lighting, inappropriate but clearly unintentional ornaments. Those fish stencilled on the walls were still there, as if ghostly pulses still stirring from the dreaded place it once was, and strangely, still is. It was Joey and me, and no one else, gazing at a long, somewhat familiar menu. Long, familiar, and more expensive than I would have liked, which may be one of few thrilling setbacks to Red Ginger restaurant. Yes, I’ve had my fill of three dollar Vietnamese coffees, and can’t help but feel a little cheated when similar restaurants scatter the city’s landscape with much cheaper renditions. So before you enter, be marginally prepared.
Before we were well on our way to ordering, Joey demanded the waiter for soup, soon calmed by my suggestion that he get a small bowl of pho, lest he want something he couldn’t finish. But admittedly, I was wrong. Finish he did, in no time, and while I waited for my papaya salad, sticky rice, and tamarind sauté, the smells were breaking my heart. I was reminiscing about the cold days I spent in Mummy’s kitchen — my old Thai employer — warmed by chili peppers, wok hei, and insurmountable amounts of coffee mixed with coconut milk and honey.
But pleasant remembrances were few and far between, my glazed gaze broken by the quaint soup Joey was slurping. With barely any onions, greens, and no coriander to be seen, I told him he’d be better off eating it at my house. But again, eat it he did.
It seemed an eternity before my papaya salad was brought to me, especially since we, like the fish on the wall, were the only other specters occupying the restaurant that night.
I was apprehensive about the visual of the thing; piled atop a julienne of crunchy pale green papaya were dull whole peanuts, squeezed together with immature tomatoes, garlic, more fish sauce than I would have liked, sugar, and the squashed rinds of lime. How those, along with the gnarly end piece of garlic, wound up in the salad wasn’t beyond me, but it certainly did a good job of adding to my infuriation with the pricey appetizer. I hoped my rice would get me back on track to a pleasant meal, but I was served with another fickle purchase. A square of sticky rice, steamed to dryness in some corners, lay in wait and all I could think about was the mounds Mummy and I would give customers in a wicker basket. Still, I did what I could to enjoy it, rolling it and dipping it in the salty sweet dressing.
The tamarind sauté was a fabulous change and not something I catch in many other places. Slices of beef, battered and deep fried, were stir fried along with red peppers, and deep fried onion in a sweet tamarind sauce. Charred by the wok, and nuanced by ginger, each airy piece delivered that bright sugary flavour I wanted with all tamarind, and the chewiness helped it all linger. It was a fabulous choice and everything I expected. Two could have easily shared it, but it was for my stomach only. The Red Ginger on the other hand, isn’t for my heart.
Red Ginger Modern Thai Viet Cuisine
Fri - Sat: 11am - 11pm