Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Asia Kitchen

Posted on Wed, Jan 17, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Release Date: 2007-01-17
Asia Kitchen
1739 S.W. Loop 410

I hate driving, but I do love going to Asia Kitchen. My personal philosophy has become: if it would take longer than an hour for me to ride there on my bicycle, I don’t want to drive. (I’ve convinced myself this is “critical regionalism,” but it could be eco-sensitive laziness … ) The trek to San Antonio’s far West Side is worth it for maybe one thing only: the Gaeng Kiew Wan, Asia Kitchen’s haunting green curry.

I was dining out with a couple of friends (I’ll try to protect their identities by referring to them as Ms. Allie and the Drifter). On the way out to Asia Kitchen, we thought back to an earlier trip, during which we ordered our meals at the medium-spice level, a five on the Richter scale, but Asia Kitchen’s “5” is everyone else’s “8.5.” Keep that in mind if you go. We joked about bringing headbands and wristbands to mop up the sweat, and printing “Team Thai” T-shirts to complete the uniform, but of course we were just kidding. No one is that cool.

Asia Kitchen’s décor is basic, nothing special. That night, the music, which sounded like birds chirping, didn’t seem to be coming from the speakers in the drop ceiling. It’s a testament to either a deceptive left-right-channel sound mix, or the cedar fever playing havoc with my inner auditory canal.

We tried to order a diverse sampling, and began with a group soup. Our waitress recommended the Tom Yum with vegetables. Unfortunately, the broccoli was a bit pallid, and the rest of the vegetables seemed about the same. Overcooked vegetables always strike me as a small tragedy. It’s more work, and everyone suffers.

For entrees we shared two dishes, beginning with the Pad Woonsen, a glass-noodle dish with chicken. Again, good, but not great, which would have made the whole experience a letdown if not for the saving grace, the raison d’etre — the Gaeng Kiew Wan. Curry is what I order 95 percent of the time at Thai restaurants, so for me, it’s all that matters. The components of curry (coconut milk, basil, galangal root, pepper, kaffir lime) make Thai food special, and Asia Kitchen’s curry is incredible. For three years I lived next to Thai Town in Los Angeles, where I ate curry all the time. Asia Kitchen’s curry is just as good as any dish I consumed there … actually, I think it’s better than what I had out West. I feel that strongly about it.


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