À la table de Madame Marie: Favorites Thai BBQ – Toronto’s new favourite Thai?
Introducing À la table de Madame Marie – a new pandemic series that provides in-depth experiences of restaurants in and around Toronto.
Favorites Thai BBQ
141 Ossington Avenue
Nothing says summer like a BBQ — especially a spicy one! With its distinctive dishes and char-grilled flavour, Favorites Thai BBQ will awaken your taste buds after a long quarantine slumber.
Located on a bustling stretch of Ossington Avenue, Favorites Thai BBQ was easy to spot with its neon “Thai BBQ” sign, multicoloured pennant strings, and Singha umbrellas that flanked patio tables. In fact, the patio looked more like a typical Thai restaurant than its airy, pastel-hued interior. The vibe was much like something you’d see on the streets of Thailand and transported me back to la pré-pandémie days of traveling abroad.
This ultra-hip restaurant is a collaboration between Jesse Fader and Jonathan Poon (Superpoint, Paris Paris) and Monte Wan (Khao San Road, Nana, Bang Sue Bar, and Bangkok Buri), and has been open since August 2019. Although its first year in operation has been a rocky road due to COVID-19, Favorites was recently named the top new restaurant by Toronto Life. While I’d challenge Mark Pupo on that ranking, Chef Haan Palcu-Chang has prepared a small selection of palate pleasers — available for outdoor dining or takeout — that combine local ingredients and the familiarity of traditional Thai cuisine as well as a hint of uniqueness. With an edited selection of apps, rice and noodle entrees, and a dessert, the food is approchable (albeit expensive) while staying true to Thai cuisine.
Take the Burmese-style green tomato salad ($18), for example. It didn’t come at me with a fire hose of heat, but I immediately noticed the garlic oil and acidity from its dressing. Thread-like shavings of cabbage and chunky green tomatoes combined with cilantro and peanuts contributed to this texturally rich dish.
Favorites is known for its natural wines curated by Krysta Oben (Paris Paris); however, it was a letdown to see only three of them offered by the glass. There were also a couple beers on offer, including the popular Thai import, Singha. Other cocktails on the menu included a Thai spiked iced tea and a shareable Thai party bucket (picture a sand pail with straws reminiscent of what you’d consume on the beach at a full moon party).
What I delighted in the most were the chicken wings ($15) — tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, and dusted with golden curry. Dunked in sweet chili sauce, it brought me a pleasing jolt with every bite. I only wished there had been more than six on the plate.
While you won’t see any Pad Thai on the menu, there were two noodle dishes. The server noted that the Pad Mee Korat ($22), a northeastern Thai stir-fried dish served with a choice of chicken or tofu, was très populaire. I ordered it with chicken. Served on a melamine plate with a side of pork crackling, it was a violently sweet Pad Thai in disguise. Every so often, a mouthful was punctuated by tamarind and fish sauce, but overall the flavour was quite one-dimensional. I did, however, enjoy the generous chunks of charcoal-grilled chicken that had been prepared on the binchotan grill. Other than this dish, barbecuing was surprisingly underrepresented on the menu.
If you’re looking to try something a little different, bask in the sun, and sip on a Singha, Favorites Thai BBQ is worth checking out — but be prepared to dish out un petit peu more than what you’d expect for these simple dishes. Will it be your new favourite Thai? I’ll let you decide!
Mme. M. xoxo