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Silver Spoon Thai Restaurant

November 6, 2014

For years and years now, my mom has talked about wanting to go to Chicago.  My parents and I have been to most of the other major cities in the United States, but for some reason we’ve never been to Chicago before.  Sure, I’ve connected flights through O’Hare, but that’s definitely not saying you’ve been to Chicago.  So, this year, my husband decided he wanted to make that happen.  My husband has been wanting to visit Chicago for years as well, and towards the end of 2013, he kept telling me that he wanted to plan a weekend trip to Chicago for both ourselves and for my parents to join us.  Fast forward a few months and I realized suddenly that my parents had some airline miles, each of them enough miles for a one-way flight from Los Angeles to Chicago.  Essentially, half their airfare would be paid for.  These miles were set to expire soon and we made the decision at the last minute that we’d send my parents, using their miles off to Chicago.  My husband and I would fly to Chicago the next day and we’d meet up with my parents then.  We’d spend 3 nights in the city and then we’d all fly home together.  At long last, we’d be on our way to see what the Windy City has in store for us.

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Having flown the red-eye from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Chicago, my husband and I were pretty tired by the time we made it to Chicago.  We met up with my parents at the airport and took the train into the city together.  We easily found our hotel right in downtown Chicago, just a block off the Magnificent Mile.  Since we knew we’d be arriving into the city around mid-day, and since we had flown a redeye, my husband knew me well enough to know I’d want food right away.  Since we had my parents with us, we had to find something that all four of us would enjoy.  Lucky us, my husband had discovered that our hotel wasn’t more than a couple of blocks away from the Thai Embassy, and connected to the embassy was a Thai restaurant that got pretty good reviews.  I knew this is a place my parents would agree to, we headed off in search of Silver Spoon Thai Restaurant.  Located right next door to the embassy, the restaurant had an awning outside its front door advertising the name of the restaurant.  Once you stepped inside, you discovered that there was actually a stairway leading downstairs to the restaurant’s front door.  The restaurant had an extensive menu filled with very eclectic Thai dishes, including some specialty Thai food that is hard to find these days, even in Thailand.

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Of course, my husband and I are suckers for Thai iced coffee, and we couldn’t dine at a Thai restaurant without having some Thai iced coffee to quench our thirst.  After having flown all through the night with barely little to no sleep, taking a train from the airport into the city, with only enough time to shower and change clothes before we hit the streets of Chicago, this Thai iced coffee was just the refreshing pick-me-up that I needed.  A little fuel to keep me going through the day.  A little refreshment on this warm Chicago day.  Is there a drink out there more flavorful, more addicting, and as completely refreshing as Thai iced coffee?  For me personally, there probably isn’t.

Going into lunch, we had all taken a look at the menu previously and had in mind a couple of items we each wanted to order.  However, to our surprise when we arrived, the restaurant had a lunch specials menu, and after perusing through the lunch specials, we realized that some of the items we wanted to order were on the specials and that it would be easier and simpler to each order a lunch special.  Each lunch special came with an appetizer and an entrée, and since there were four of us, we each decided to pick a different appetizer and a different entrée so that we could all share with one another, even though these lunch specials weren’t necessarily meant to be shared.

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With the idea that we would be sharing, we picked out 4 of the 5 appetizers that were offered with the lunch specials.  The first appetizer was spring rolls.  Described as fresh spring rolls stuffed with a combination of vegetables and tofu and topped with delicious plum sauce, I wasn’t quite sure from the description if we’d be getting deep-fried egg rolls, or Vietnamese-style spring rolls wrapped in rice paper.  Sure enough, it was actual spring rolls wrapped in rice paper, Vietnamese-style.  Actually, I shouldn’t say it’s Vietnamese-style because traditional Thai spring rolls are made the same way.  It’s just so unusual to see because in most restaurants these days you see the deep-fried variety.  But, I should have known because this restaurant had a lot of “old school” recipes that are hard to find these days, even in Thailand.  The little spring rolls were cut into bite-sized pieces and were stuffed with the right combination of tofu and vegetables.  However, it’s the plum sauce that brings it all together.  This dish reminded me of the old Thai-style spring rolls I enjoyed as a kid in Thailand, but haven’t had in so long.

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My mom really wanted to try the fried tofu, so that’s what she ordered.  Good thing everyone else, myself and my husband included are tofu fans.  Who would have thought?  The menu described these puppies as deep-fried tofu served with crushed peanuts over sweet & sour sauce with a touch of red pepper.  This has always been one of my mom’s favorite Thai foods, and again, not a dish commonly found any more these days in Thai restaurants.  There’s a theme developing here.  These weren’t so bad.  I think that the tofu probably could have been fried a bit crispier and longer as they seemed a little under fried and limp, but it still worked.  The sweet and sour dipping sauce with the crushed peanuts was terrific and really what my mom liked about the dish.

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As it was a warm Chicago day, I chose the cucumber salad with fresh cucumbers, onions and carrot in a mild sweet & sour dressing for my appetizer.  Most Thai people would recognize this more as a cucumber salad traditionally served with dishes such as satay so that you could dip your grilled meat skewer into the cucumber salad to add flavor, rather than this being a stand alone salad dish.  However, it was cool, refreshing and terrific with that hint of vinegar.  And in the end, my mom really liked this cucumber salad with her fried tofu.

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My husband saw crab Rangoon as an appetizer and decided that was for him, even though that was the least Thai of the dishes offered.  In fact, crab Rangoon isn’t a Thai dish at all.  Made with blended crab, cream cheese and water chestnuts wrapped with a wonton skin and deep-fried, it only took the combination of crab meat and deep-frying to get my husband interested.  While this could be a riff on a Thai crab wonton dish, you know it’s not Thai with the addition of cream cheese as I don’t even think cream cheese exists in Thailand.  Never the less, I liked the dish as did my husband.  My mom was a bit more skeptical about it.  But the combination of the creamy and sweet crab meat blended with the creamy and a little tangy cream cheese with the crispy deep-fried wonton skin and dipped into the accompanying sweet and sour sauce was pretty good.

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Again, for our entrees, we each ordered 4 different items so we could take a little taste of each of each others dishes.  My mom chose to order ground chicken stir fired with spicy Thai basil leaves, bell peppers and jalapenos.  This is a personal favorite dish of hers, and of my husband’s as well, and a very popular dish in Thailand.  Honestly, I don’t remember what my mom said about this dish and whether or not she liked it.  I think I was too busy eating my dish.  But, she finished her dish and still had a little bite of everyone else’s dish, so I’m going to say that it was good enough.

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My dad ordered the pad see ew.  This is normally the dish I would have ordered, but something else on the menu caught my eye.  This is also a very popular Thai dish, and extremely popular in the US because it’s probably the “safe” dish, full of flavor, but not a curry dish and not a spicy dish.  It’s made with stir fried noodles with meat, egg, Chinese broccoli and bean sprouts.  I’ve definitely seen this dish made regular broccoli, the kind that we find in the supermarket, instead of Chinese broccoli, which is traditionally what pad see ew should be made with, and it makes a difference.  Chinese broccoli fits this dish so much better as it’s full of a more bitter and earthy flavor than regular broccoli is.  Understandably though, you don’t see Chinese broccoli all of the time because it’s harder to find, less familiar to a lot of people in the US, and generally more expensive than regular broccoli.  My dad too liked his dish enough that he was able to finish the whole thing, although he’s as far from a picky eater as possible.  Put food in front of him and he’ll eat it without complaint.

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The dish on the menu that caught my eye was Thai pepper steak.  I’m a meat lover, so put steak in the title of anything and I’ll probably want to eat it.  In this case, the dish was made with stir fried tender beef with bell peppers, mushrooms, water chestnut, tomatoes and white onions in a special brown sauce, a gravy, if you will.  Ok, so I completely needed to overlook the mushrooms and the bell peppers in the dish because I don’t enough either, so I had to pick around it.  But what made it ok was the water chestnuts.  Again, not an ingredient you see in a lot of dishes, and besides bamboo, it’s one of those old school type of ingredients that I really like.  The crunch of the water chestnuts and the neutral flavor of it all, it’s just so good.  The special brown sauce really brought the flavors of the dish together and melded the pepper and the steak and the green onions and white tomatoes and the water chestnut together.  A great lunch plate.

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For my husband, he ordered the cashew chicken as his lunch entrée.  Made with stir fried cashew nuts, bell peppers, mushrooms, peapods, carrots and pineapples, I think he really liked the varying flavors in the dish.  Everything from the crunch of the cashews, to the sweetness of the pineapples, blended with the peapods and the chicken and the carrots and mushrooms.  I think it’s these types of varying flavors that come together that really is what my husband likes about Thai food.  There’s so many different textures and notes of flavor and somehow it all works.

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However, aside from just our lunch specials, there is one other item that my husband really wanted to order.  It’s the one item on the menu that really attracted my husband’s attention the first time he looked at the menu, before we had even decided to go to Silver Spoon Thai.  This is another of those really unique menu items that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on a Thai restaurant menu here in the US.  Heck, you can hardly find it on restaurant menus in Thailand.  And the minute my husband mentioned it to me, I knew exactly what it was because it’s one of my most favorite Thai dishes, something I used to eat as a kid when I was in Thailand, and something I haven’t had in years now because most places just don’t make it anymore.  It’s a dish called kanom buang yuan.  Essentially, it’s a thin omelet that’s pan-fried until it’s crispy and almost like brittle paper consistency.  It’s then stuffed with shredded coconut, shrimp, bean sprouts and tofu.  It sounds like an interesting flavor profile with the tofu and the bean sprouts and then the shrimp and the shredded coconut.  But again, somehow all of the flavors just meld together.  Combine that with the crispy thin omelet “shell”, the dish is generally served alongside a vinegar-based cucumber salad, and when it combine everything together, it creates a magical bite with the 4 staples of Thai food – salty, sweet, sour, and just a hint of spice.  The reason you don’t see this dish very often anymore is that the batter for the crispy thin omelet is really hard to make just right, and finding someone who can create an omelet that is that thin, and that crispy, but that doesn’t fall apart when you “stuff” it is hard to do.  It’s an old school technique and a dying art.  My husband, who is the one that really wanted to try this was in love with it.  And taking a bite of it myself, I was reminded why I love this dish so much.  It’s so chock full of flavors and textures and is just so unique and special.  Days later, my husband was still talking about this particular dish and  how much he liked it.

For old school, delicious, Thai dishes, Silver Spoon Thai Restaurant really delivers.  This cute little restaurant, located right next door to the Thai Embassy, and only one block off of Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile is a great standout for authentic Thai food.  The restaurant’s service was good and quick, and their food was flavorful and delicious.  And if you’re there for lunch time, their lunch specials with an appetizer and entrée can’t be beat.  Good Thai food in Chicago with old school flair, Silver Spoon certainly delivers.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. tika permalink
    December 9, 2015 4:31 am

    hello alisa, i’m from Indonesia. It’s nice to know a bit about thai food. it’s quiet similiar with Indonesian food. we eat rice and stir fry almost everything. and we eat fried tofu like… everyday haha. and it tastes better if you coat it with flour. so it’s very crispy and savory.

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