1938 West 4th Ave
T: 604 730 5579
Brief Description: A fairly recent Thai addition to the Vancouver restaurant scene. Maenam is friendly on the wallet, without sacrificing quality or ambience.
Gastropod was a restaurant that I had on my “To do” list for 2009. I had heard many good things about the food but it was a tad on the costly side and so I hadn’t gotten around to visiting yet. Unfortunately, I won’t get to. As of May this year, Angus An, closed the doors to his beloved Gastropod and in its place opened a more economically friendly option, Maenam.
Rather than the high-end West Coast cuisine that Gastropod offered, Maenam combines authentic Thai food with a more up-market atmosphere than most other Thai restaurants found in Vancouver.
Located in the busy foodie section of West 4th, between Cypress and Maple Streets, the restaurant has a relatively intimate seating area and is simply decorated, with a minimalistic style. Service is polite, prompt and professional. Prices are unbelievably affordable with nothing on the dinner menu over $18. The lunch and late night menu’s are even more affordable with most dishes around the $12 to $13 mark.
The menu’s are simple and offer a lot of traditional Thai dishes that you would expect to find at most Thai restaurants, such as Hot and Sour Soup, Oxtail Soup, Pad Thai, Satay’s, Papaya Salad and Paenang Beef. Alongside these favourites, you will also find Mussaman Chicken, Green Curry Halibut, Smoked Duck Red Curry and Crispy Pork Belly with Green Peppercorns. The menu strikes a good balance of seafood, poultry and meat. What makes Maenam stand out in a sea of mediocre Thai restaurants is the quality of the food and the presentation. The dishes come out in small silver serving bowls, which are perfect for sharing. The roti (which is quite good, but not the best I’ve had) is served on a slate tile and is only $3 – a must-have for mopping up creamy, spicy sauces. The dishes have been prepared with a lot of effort and this is noticeable in the excellence of the food.
The first time I visited I tried the Paenang Beef with a side of roti. The sauce was absolutely lovely – rich and creamy with lots of complex flavours. My one critique of this particular dish was that there was far too much Thai basil in the sauce. With a strong aniseed taste, a little goes a long way and I was picking out many, many leaves of this from the sauce. Besides that small nit-pick, I really enjoyed the dish.
On my second visit, I was torn between the Pad Thai and the Mussaman Chicken and ended up trying the chicken. Again, it was thoroughly enjoyable – the flavours were great, there was a smooth peanut taste throughout and the crispy shallots added a bit of crunch. My only complaint was that I didn’t enjoy eating chicken pieces with the skin left on. However, this is more of a personal taste issue rather than a quality issue.
Final Thoughts: A review that I had read in one of the local papers had claimed that Maenam was the best restaurant to open in Vancouver this year and I feel that my experiences there, so far, are unable to validate that comment. It was good, but rave-worthy, it was not. In my opinion, the prices are what make Maenam extra appealing. A good quality lunch, in a nice restaurant, for well under $20 is always going to rate high in my books. Definitely worth a visit but don’t set your expectations too high.