In this unprecedented journalistic feat, we ordered and ate each of the 23 items on our favorite Thai restaurant’s full-time menu, and ranked them here for you by excellence. Hey, obsession isn’t pretty, folks.
1. Mackerel fried rice
The legend. Maine farm-smoked mackerel, garlic and egg in a wondrous sticky porridge.
2. Panang curry
A classic Thai dish, done like nowhere else with dreamy knots of braised, fall-apart-tender beef in a spicy-sweet roasted red pepper elixir.
3. Tom yum moo soup
Surprisingly lime-y and tangy, the soup includes minced pork from the Valley’s Meat Shop and long, slurpable tangles of vermicelli.
4. Pad Prik king
Less of a chile bomb and more aromatic than a typical prik, this green-bean entree delights with kaffir lime and a light curry paste. Topped with a fried egg.
5. Yum hed tod
Tempura-battered oyster mushrooms with fried shallots and herbs. Simple but grand.
6. Kao soi
Egg noodles, organic chicken and achat pickles in a rib-sticking curry broth that’s reminiscent of a heavy brown Japanese curry. Delish.
7. Hoi mlang pou
Prince Edward Island mussels and lemongrass is the food-celebrity marriage we’ve been waiting for. Sweetened with chile jam.
To Western ears, “papaya salad” is a misnomer. Mild and jicama-like, unripe papaya plays beautifully with sweet-funky fish sauce (nam pla) for a perfect meal-starter.
9. Kanom jeeb
Another great starter. Pork-scallion dumplings with a sweet ginger sauce for dunking. Get two if you’re sharing, ’cause you might lose a finger.
10. ka na moo grob
Bitter florets of fried Chinese broccoli offset sweet nam pla and gooey, half-cooked “son-in-law egg” in this delighful entree – maybe the most baroque of the bunch.
11. Silom Road Moo ping
For satay fans, chef Cat Bunnag compromises with local pork shoulder marinated in coconut milk, soy and garlic, then skewered and grilled.
12. Kao pad pu
Crab fried rice, for short. Like No. 1, quite delicious. Just not as interesting, sans mackerel.
13. Nua num tok
New York strip with shallots and a dusting of “toasted rice” (sometimes used in barkeep Max Berlin’s delightful Thai-inspired cocktails).
14. Peek gai tod
Bunnag’s street sensibilities shine with crispy soy-marinated chicken wings. Served with jaew – an aromatic condiment of fish sauce, sugar, lime and more of that interesting toasted rice.
15. Larb moo
Gobbled up on the streets of Isan in northeast Thailand, it brings pork, lime, herbs and fish sauce together in a tasty, gluten-free heap .
16. Grilled chicken salad
Sounds basic, and it is basic… but very tasty. Roasted soy-marinated chicken with fresh tomato and onion in a spritzy lime dressing.
17. Kapro gai kai dao
Stir-fried minced chicken in a chile-garlic sauce with occasional yelps of Thai basil. Too little stir-fry, too much rice when we had it.
18. Yum woon sen
A gluten-free starter with glass noodles, minced pork and shrimp in a light lime dressing.
19. Pad kee mao
Rice noodles with a pleasant but tame supporting cast of vegetables and proteins.
20. Kao tom moo
The mildest of the menu’s three soups– ground pork in chicken broth with shrimp and garlic oil.
21. Pad thai
Not a bad bite, as noodles go… but it’s all fish sauce, no tamarind.
22. Salted crab papaya salad
Same as the somtum, but with hard-to-find bits of chopped salted crab scattered throughout.
23. Chive rice cake vegan
The lone vegan offering can’t get out of first gear, even with a ramekin of delicious jaew.
2333 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, 602-595-5881, glaibaanaz.com