The Reveal – Isaan Der
Chef Chatsuda (“Ko”) Drouin was a news reporter and journalist for Channel 7 News in Thailand when she discovered her love of food. Following her passion, she immersed herself in training at the luxury Hotel Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. On days off, she flew to Bangkok to take cooking classes.
“When you heat the music of the wok, you want to jump in,” she says of her passion for the cuisine.
Ko brings the flavours and spicy kick of her homeland Isaan to Toronto with her first restaurant, with husband Donald.
Isaan is the largest region in Thailand, bordered by Laos to the North and Cambodia to the Southeast. These neighbouring countries, along with Vietnam, have influenced this Northeastern Thai cuisine.
In Isaan, coconut milk isn’t as predominantly used as other Thai regions, so most soups are clear. The cuisine is centred on three spices called “bathi” – coriander root, garlic and black pepper – so even familiar dishes such as Pad Thai ($13) will taste vastly different here. Dishes feature fiery spices and lots of fresh vegetables and herbs.
Tuck into starters, spicy salads, grilled and deep-fried dishes, soups, noodles, rice and dessert, with prices ranging from $2 to $13, and $9 lunch specials.
Chef Ko makes all dishes by hand, from scratch and to order – even the soups – so while there may be a bit of a wait, it’s worth it. And there’s lots of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available (there’s even a curry paste made specifically for vegans).
The selection of beer includes Thailand’s national beer Singha (pronounced “Sing” – $6.50), local High Park Brewery IPA, Lager and English Ale tall cans ($7.25) and wines from around the world ($7-$10 gls.).
Non-alcoholic options include juices, teas and Real Thai Iced Tea ($3) made with black tea infused with condensed milk.
Fixtures and Fittings
The husband-and-wife team installed everything from a new gas line to the entire kitchen and all furniture. Between the large front window, and removal of the drop ceiling, the narrow room feels roomy.
Ko applied Thai words (the menu of dishes) in delicate gold paint on one wall, and authentic, shallow Thai baskets on the other.
Colourful, traditional Thai textiles made with natural dyed cotton fabric called “puuko mah” are prominently displayed, and go well with the vibrantly coloured pillows at the front and match the banquette along the wall.
Off the Menu
Golden Bags ($8) Delicate deep-fried pastry packets are hand-filled with an enticing blend of water chestnuts, carrots and mushrooms, served with house-made chilli sauce. The pretty noodle bow – a sign of long life – is hand-tied by Ko, a trick learned at her time at the hotel.
Spring Rolls ($5) Hand rolled then deep fried, you’ll soon be addicted to these vegetarian delights, stuffed with shredded carrots, glass noodles, mushrooms and taro, and served with a side of chilli sauce.
Calamari ($8) What makes this deep-fried squid one of the best in the city is Ko’s special blend of flour and spices.
Guaytiaw Gang ($13) This is the only place to get this authentic dish in the city, according to the owners, so revel in delicate rice noodles set in curry sauce, with bean sprouts, tofu, turnip and boiled egg, served with your choice of beef, chicken or tofu.
BBQ Pork & Sticky Rice ($12) A friend taught Ko how to make this staple – synonymous with Isaan – of tender pork marinated in garlic, honey and coriander root, then grilled and served with sticky rice.
Cashew Chicken ($13) Ko blended together two recipes from the hotel she trained in to create this popular dish of deep-fried chicken stir-fry with chilli paste, onion, bell peppers and cashews.
The dining room accommodates up to 46 guests. Dine-in and takeout are available, with delivery coming soon.
At the Stove: Chef Chatsuda (“Ko”) Drouin
FOH: Phengchaem (“Noi”) Uraiwan
Head Honchos: Chatsuda and Donald Drouin
Map It: 2961 Dundas St. W. (in The Junction)
Tuesdays to Thursdays: 12 pm – 2:30 pm; 5 – 10 pm
Fridays and Saturdays: 12 pm – 2:30 pm; 5 – 11pm
Sundays: 5 – 9:30 pm
Phone it in: 416-604-0062
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