Monday, June 6, 2011
TAC Quick Thai Kitchen
Spring weather can be wildly unpredictable in Chicago. Many moons ago, when I used to reside just a few blocks from the lake, I quickly learned that pleasant, warm days at my office in the suburbs would often be windy and brisk at home in the city. Apparently, this knowledge was lost to me when I became a suburbanite again - a few weeks ago, I left 72-degree Tinley Park in short sleeves expecting to enjoy a nice evening of baseball at Wrigley Field, only to find the entire North Side enveloped in a dense fog bank as I crossed over the Chicago River, shivering and cursing to myself as I walked from my car towards the stadium in a 49-degree breezy chill, with only a light windbreaker to offer negligible warmth. This would be the perfect night for some dinner with a little heat to it, namely TAC Quick Thai Kitchen, a little Thai restaurant on Sheridan Rd. just north of the park. TAC had been on my radar for a while, having received a number of accolades from the local foodie press, as well as having been vouched for by such culinary luminaries as Grant Achatz (I've found that if I just dine wherever he dines, I'm always happy). Grateful for any shelter from the elements, I ducked in for a quick bite before first pitch.
According to their website, they offer both a "standard" and a "secret" menu (I find it somewhat endearing that a "secret" menu would be prominently displayed on the Internet for review); however, not being even remotely well-versed in the finer points of Thai cuisine, I was content to limit my choices to the "standard" version provided by my server. Soup stood out to me as a good way to restore my body temperature, so I opted for a bowl of tom kha, described as a coconut broth with galanga root (sort of like a mellow ginger), mushrooms (ugh), tomato, white and green onion, cilantro, and citrus leaf. Designated by the house as only one-star spicy (i.e., about the same intensity of burn that one might find in a box of Frosted Flakes), it was just what the doctor ordered for renewed vitality: rich, warm, and complex, and even the mushrooms weren't too bad (I somehow managed to bring myself to eat around half of them). For the entree, I went with the kai tod, a collection of deep-fried, marinated small chicken pieces (wings, thighs, etc.) served with a plate of white rice and and a mysterious-yet-addictive dipping sauce (What's that flavor I can't identify? Lime? Pomegranate?). The chicken wasn't the least bit greasy, with little, if any, breading and a light glaze reminiscent of teriyaki, but with a little more pizazz to it. I was thoroughly satisfied with the meal (you can see both soup and entree in the photo above) and ended up dropping less than $20, or about the same price as a hot dog, nachos, and lousy beer at the frigid ballpark. Given that I chose to abandon the game early (a rain-shortened Cubs loss) and race for my vehicle in advance of an approaching storm front, the great Thai food was by far the most joyous of the evening's festivities....