Thai Made (泰美) on Dongfeng Street (東豐街) is a welcome recent addition to Taipei’s Thai food scene, serving cuisine from northern Thailand. Dishes are flavored with plenty of chili, lemongrass, tamarind juice, ginger and spices. Coconut milk-based dishes, on the other hand, are not as predominantly featured on the menu as at other Thai restaurants that serve dishes from central or southern Thailand (though there are still several coconut milk curries on the menu).
The restaurant’s interior is simple but thoughtfully appointed, with large black-and-white portraits of Thai people in traditional dress lining one wall and baskets of produce, herbs and spices carefully arranged in front of wide windows that look into Thai Made’s open kitchen. A back room is available for larger parties, while the patio is a great spot for lunch on sunny days.
Thai Made’s lengthy, tri-lingual menu (Thai, Chinese and English) is daunting to look through at first, but the restaurant’s recommendations are delineated with small yellow dots — and servers are quick with recommendations. These include the excellent “traditional northern Thai original raw fish salad”(NT$280), which the restaurant prepares in limited quantities every day. It is made from a finely minced mixture of raw fish flavored with green onions, garlic, chili and spices until eye-wateringly piquant. The salad is served with a pile of crisp cabbage leaves to scoop the fish onto.
Most dishes on Thai Made’s menu feature a similarly thoughtfully and finely calibrated balance of flavors and textures. The eggplant wok-fried with sweet basil (NT$220) had just as much chicken, crisp onions, cherry tomatoes and green peppers as it did eggplant and basil, taking it a notch above an ordinary side dish.
Address: 34 Dongfeng St, Taipei City (台北市東豐街34號)
Telephone: (02) 2784-0303
Open: 11AM to 2:30PM and 5:30PM-10PM
Average meal: NT$400 to NT$600
Details: Chinese, Thai and English menu, credit cards accepted
Both the raw fish salad and eggplant featured rich flavors and very spicy chili peppers, while the steamed sea bass with lime, garlic and chili (NT$400), another one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, came as a welcome mellow break for our taste buds. The fish, served whole, was cooked until its flesh was buttery and had picked up the flavors of the aromatic broth. Along with the raw fish salad, the steamed sea bass was one of our favorite dishes of the night.
Northern style chicken in galangal soup (NT$300) was another refreshing dish ideal for a summer night. It featured chunks of boneless white chicken meat simmered until tender in a broth with lots of lemongrass, galangal (a root vegetable related to ginger), cilantro, cherry tomatoes and red chili peppers.
The only dish that fell beneath my expectations was the seafood red curry cream soup served in a whole coconut (NT$400). The presentation is cute and the large servings of fresh seafood in the curry, including prawns and crabmeat, were excellent, but the red curry tasted slightly too sweet and bland, especially when compared to the zestier and more complex flavor combinations of our earlier dishes.
Thai Made’s service is excellent, so if you feel overwhelmed by the restaurant’s menu, ask your waiter or waitress to recommend dishes for you. The spiciness of most dishes can be adjusted, but Thai Made’s definition of “a little spicy” is actually very piquant.