Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Maikham: Thai and Lao Cusine

Maikham ("Golden Silk") is the new restaurant, specializing in "Authentic Thai and Laos Cusine", that moved into the old Dashi location on State Street. 

We stopped in for lunch this afternoon and were rewarded with an excellent dining experience. I always enjoyed Dashi and was sad to see them close. Seems like they were barely there. And I was happy to see that not much had changed as far as the interior. (Almost weirdly so; as if Dashi just moved out yesterday.) Everything pretty much the same. A beautiful bright and crisp Fall day streaming in through the high open window facade, warming the natural wood and simple design of the interior. 

Chef Usanee Klimo was enthusiastically working the counter and the kitchen when we came in. The menu was written on the chalk boards offering appetizers such as Fresh Roll (Spiced tofu or shrimp rolls with green vegetables, mints and basil), Maikham Rolls (Deep-fried vegetarian spring rolls) and  Khaotang Naa Tang (Crispy rice crackers topped your choice of curried turkey, chicken or pork). 

Main dishes included Tom Kha Gai (Hot and sour chicken soup with coconut milk, lemongrass, mushroom and onion), Green or Red Curry (Vegetable,  Chicken or Beef), Khao Soi (Chiang Mai egg noodle and herbs with chicken or beef curry) and Yam Mu-Kuea (Grilled eggplant salad with lime dressing and topped with minced chicken and shrimp) among others. 

We ordered the Khaotang Naa Tang because we had never had it, Vegetarian Red Curry and Tom Kha Gai. I figured you can always get a good sense of the culinary sensibilities of a restaurant in how well they prepare the standards like curry and Tom Kha Gai.

The Khaotang Naa Tang arrived well presented on the plate, tasty house-made rice crackers and a small dish of curried turkey. It was excellent. The rich, but not too spicy, curry and the subtle roasted flavors of the rice crackers harmonized like old friends.

Tom Yam Noodles with Chicken

Next up was the Tom Kha Gai and Vegetable Red Curry. Both presented nicely, garnished with basil leaves. The Tom Kha Gai was well balanced, rich with mushrooms and chicken in sweet coconut milk, delicately balancing sweet and sour. The Vegetable Red curry was also exceptional: the vegetables - broccoli, eggplant, green bean pods and kabocha squash- cooked just enough, all still crisp to the bite. The curry sauce was delicate and subtle - two qualities not usually associated with curry. Also the dish was not drowned in sauce. There was just enough to coat the vegetables and provide a thin layer at the base to soak into the rice. The rice was also excellent in flavor and texture.

Chef Usanee told me she wants to emphasize the truly traditional flavors. And I read on the new website that she feels "equally at home with the more subtle flavors and coconut-based curries of Thailand's central region, as well as the many seafood dishes found along Thailand's extensive coasts." And that is what we immediately remarked upon: the subtlety, almost delicate, qualities of flavor that made our dishes stand out from the usual.

I think it is one of the signs of a good restaurant that each new dish you try only stimulates your desire to try another. If the Tom Kha Gai was so good, you imagine how good the Khao Soi is going to be, or the Yam Mu-Kuea, or anything Chef Usanee applies her expert culinary skills towards. We look forward to many more beautiful experiences at Maikham.

Update: Went back last weekend for lunch with a friend. Had delicious Fresh Rolls with tofu and Tom Yam Noodles with Chicken. What is most distinctive about Maikham is the freshness and subtle preparation of all of the ingredients. I had the Tom Yam Noodles with Chicken. The broth was rich and spicy without being overbearing. The vegetables all crispy and in large portions. Good cuts of tender chicken. An perfect dish for a cold rainy day.

1311 North State St.
Bellingham, WA 98225

(360) 366-8193 

Monday - Saturday, 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. 

Note that Maikham also caters.

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