Chai Pochana is a casual restaurant brings primarily central Thai cuisine in an area generally devoid of traditional Thai restaurants.
Replacing Asada Mexican Grill, the 30-seat space is decked out in royal blue and decorated with spiritual offering plates, a shrine and images of Thai ingredients.
Chicken satay is well priced at $5.50, grilled skewered chicken chunks marinated in oyster sauce, chili, soy, and cumin that gives it a yellow tinge. A viscous, sweet peanut sauce and an acidic cucumber salad are tasty accompaniments rather than afterthoughts.
Shrimp is the most expensive protein option for tom yum soup at $9.95, the alternatives chicken ($7.95) or vegetable ($6.95). The other main component of the thin, spicy soup is mushrooms and herbs, and I always feel like this is an ideal dish for when you're feeling under the weather.
Yum woon sen ($10.95) is a cold salad of mung bean glass noodles with grilled shrimp, lots of ground chicken, mint, coriander, chili, and a lime dressing that also has a funky fish sauce flavour that keeps me coming back for more.
Like many Thai dishes, accompanying slices of tomato and cucumber provide refreshing palate cleaners. Something cool to try if you've mostly had Thai beef mango salad and are looking to expand horizons.
Pad ped talay ($15.95) is a seafood stir fry of shrimp and squid with crunchy peppers, long beans, ginger, onion, and eggplant that really soaks up the umami qualities of a spicy, salty, fishy sauce. Accompanying rice also helps with soaking.
Chicken khao soi ($12.95) strays a little into northern Thai cuisine, but could definitely hold its own up against popular renditions of the dish in the city.
Slippery egg noodles are cradled in a creamy, spicy coconut milk curry, topped with an impressive nest of crispy egg noodles.
I have to inquire about the cornerstone of most Thai restaurants, pad thai, and learn that you can actually get it two ways here: traditionally made with tamarind, or the sweeter Canadian version made with ketchup and vinegar. No need to bounce between restaurants to satisfy both cravings.
To drink, opt for a super-sweet Thai iced tea ($4.95).
Part of one wall of the restaurant is designed to look like a traditional medicine cabinet, and a small patio in front seats 10 when it's warm out. The owners here are actually related to the people behind Bolan Thai.