Like ubiquitous sushi in Vancouver, there’s lots of Thai food to be had in Toronto. Most are efficient, cheap places where you can grab a passable pad thai or green curry for less than $8. But most are ordinary.
Khao San Road takes Thai food to fun and cool. (Not that I know much about cool; I go to bed at 10 p.m. On a weekend.) Michelle and I arrived on night flights and made it there just in time for a late dinner. There was a velvet rope outside and a guy who looked like a bouncer on his cellphone. We were confused.
Turns out the staffer just happened to be outside talking on the phone, and I think the rope is to keep the lineups orderly during the dinner rush. Apparently, it’s that crazy busy. They don’t take reservations, so try to go at non-peak hours (right when they open for lunch or dinner, later in the night).
Despite the first impression of a snobby club, Khao San Road is anything but. Servers were extremely friendly, and groups of diners were obviously enjoying themselves, giving it a warm, “stay all night” vibe.
We split two dishes: the chef’s special pad thai ($15) with pork and the green curry ($13) with beef. I noticed prices are a tad higher than normal Toronto Thai places, but the price difference was made up in fresh ingredients, non-surly service and funky atmosphere.
(The restaurant’s owner was sitting next to us with his friends and we started chatting. He told us some people complain about the “high prices,” pointing out that they could make pad thai for $1 in Thailand. Ummm… I don’t envy being a restaurant owner, that’s for sure. I’d be kicking annoying people out left and right.)
I liked the special pad thai — advertised as “sweet, sour, savoury” — but to be honest, I could not distinguish it from a standard pad thai. I think next time, I would just order their street-style version for $2 less.
Fresh green chiles, bamboo shoots, green peppers, Thai basil definitely came through in the green curry. At first, I thought the bowl looked small, but it turned out to be those bottomless servings that satisfy.
Michelle and I had fun eating and catching up, but it is loud and hopping, so don’t expect a quiet, romantic spot. Vegans and vegetarians are well-served here with lots of selection.
Khao San Road, 326 Adelaide West, Toronto, (647) 352-5773. Open Monday to Saturday lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m. Closed Sundays.
KID-FRIENDLY NOTES – It’s loud so pre-schoolers and up would be OK.
High chairs or boosters: No.
Access: A few steps at the front door and a tight dining room. Not conducive for strollers or car seats.