Charm Modern Thai & Bar
1269 Hamilton St.
Vancouver
604-688-9339

charmmodernthai.com

Open for Lunch: Monday to Friday, noon to 3 p.m.
Open for Dinner: Nightly, 5:30 p.m. to late

Signature Drink: Bangkok Mojito
Signature Dish: Choo-Chee Sablefish

Rating: ****
Dinner & drinks for two: $88

It’s only been open a few months, but on my first visit I felt I was seeing an old friend. Comfortable, cozy and chic, the main room at Charm Modern Thai is a red lounge with banquettes and a big, square bar. Part Bangkok speakeasy, part upscale eatery, it’s a wholly perfect fit for Yaletown’s casual urbanites or anyone looking for casual Thai in a more urbane environment.

The drinks list was an instant hit. Cocktails like my Bangkok Mojito are $8, with daily specials for $6. My friend’s dirty martini was a whopping $7—and yes, it was good and dirty. The wine list was a decent rendering of value labels with most bottles falling under the $50 mark, and all glasses falling between $6 and $9. The restaurant also offers a daily happy hour between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Highballs, wine and beer all hover between $4 and $5, while select appies from the regular menu get knocked down by a couple of dollars.

That menu—carefully executed by Chef Tipnari Kulriwanich—favours classic Thai fare, but with some nice local twists. Duck confit spring rolls ($9) were light on grease and big on flavour. And the crispy rice vermicelli they were stacked over made an excellent snack in between courses. Lovely green papaya salad ($12) was artfully served in butter lettuce cups and well-seasoned, although the portion felt a bit on the meek side, and the papaya could have put in more of an appearance. Mildly spicy ahi tuna sashimi ($12) was a perfect texture and came topped with an intensely fresh mint and lemongrass salsa.

Sablefish in kaffir lime leaf and red curry reduction ($19) was the hands down favourite of the evening. The skin was crisp, the flesh flaked and melted on the tongue, and the sauce was mop-worthy. (Note to self: Is asking for bread in a Thai restaurant a sign of ignoramusitis? It’s just a shame to waste all that sauce.) Pineapple braised beef short ribs in red curry ($17) were moist, tender and flavourful, albeit slightly over-sweet. The portion, however, even with those big bones, was overly generous.

Dessert was a mixed affair, and saw a chocolate chili tort ($4.50) that was the last word in dark, rich, sin-liciousness. The accompanying deep-fried wonton wafers, however, were at odds with their chocolate and plum sauce drizzle. Savoury met sweet in a profoundly wrong way. The right frying oil here would make all the difference.

The vanilla bean tapioca pudding ($4.50), on the other hand, was divine. Served in a glass bowl, the lid is left on for you to remove, so the first steam is all yours. A few slices of papaya were an unexpected addition, and, despite making a fairly tasty combination, were, to my mind, completely unnecessary. This is a perfect, warm, aromatic pudding that needs nothing except a slightly larger spoon. And if it doesn’t take you back to rainy day treats by the fire, nothing will.

The Perfect Picnic Wine

Wondering what to put in your wicker basket this summer? Try Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Chardonnay-Semillon 2007 or Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. Both are available in the new “Shuttle” packaging, which features a 250 ml single-serve acrylic wine bottle sealed by its own acrylic wine glass. Just pop and pour. Available starting June 2009. BCLS $4.29 each.

Top Shelf

 

EPIC, the Sustainable Living Expo, starts tomorrow at the new Vancouver Convention Centre (999 Waterfront Place). Don’t miss the cooking stage for tips on canning, organic cocktails, local coffee and more. Details at www.epicvancouver.com.

Dining Out

Mother’s Day Deals

Elixir Restaurant (350 Davie St) is offering a special Mother’s Day brunch menu for $29.50 (two courses) or $36.50 (three courses).Try French toast with cherry and white chocolate butter, warm pretzels with Toulouse sausage, Pavlova with passion fruit curd, and much more. Call 604-642-0557.

For a more casual experience, check out The Smoking Dog Bistro (1889 West 1 Ave) for their Mother’s Day brunch. Try the Crème Brulée French toast, pancakes with vanilla rum butter or the classic Kitsilano Runner’s Breakfast. Call 604-732-8811.

Food in Brief

Campagnolo Restaurant (1020 Main St) has been named one of the world’s 50 best new restaurants by Conde Nast Traveler.

Chocolate for the Cure: For the month of May, Mink A Chocolate Café (863 West Hastings St) is donating all tips to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of B.C.

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