Hidden in the Whitemud Crossings between a family Chinese restaurant and the Edmonton Public Library is a Thai food establishment called the Thai Valley Grill. Having never tried Thai cuisine before, the prospect of tasting new foreign food was very enticing, and I brought my two roommates, Sam and Keira, with me to get a taste of this exotic food.
While my friends and I ordered an appetizer, we ordered drinks — they a Smirnoff Ice each and for myself, a Thai iced tea. Naïvely expecting a regular iced tea, I was surprised by the vibrant orange liquid and foamy top. Thinking the drink would be sweet, I was met instead with a tangy, bitter milk flavour. Turns out it was a milk drink made from tamarind, a tropical fruit where the pulp is used in many cuisines.
We didn’t have to wait long for our appetizer: satays of skewered beef. Although the dishes were big enough to share, after the first bite, I wanted the whole thing to myself. The meat was tender, juicy, and drenched in a rich beef flavour with a buttery, salty-sweet peanut sauce on the side. While the sauce was smooth and delicious, I found it overpowered the satays and only dipped my skewers in a bit to get both flavours.
From the three dishes that I tried, my least favourite dish was my own — the “Everyday Special” Neua Yang (“Grill Beef”). The beef came covered in brown sauce; half of it was boneless and tender and easy to eat, but the other half was boney and chewy, and I could only get bits off the bone. The sauce was sweet, not spicy as written in the menu, and I did not get much of the honey flavour. It balanced well with the sweet, soft coconut rice, though.
Surveying Keira’s Pad Thai (“Famous Thai Noodle”) I knew that I had to try it. I found it to be mediocre, but there was a nice balance between the salty sweet sauce and beef in the dish, and the noodles were smooth and cooked to perfection. This dish did lack the tamarind taste I expected that was indicated in the menu, and the freshness of cilantro and scallions did not come through for me. Some spices on the side were provided, but I found they overpowered my mouth and didn’t mix well into the dish.
My favourite dish was Sam’s Pud Mamuang (“Fresh Mango Stir Fried”), as it had lovely strips of fresh mango, perfectly cooked green and red peppers, and tender beef strips. The saltiness of the sauce balanced the coconut rice nicely. (Sam kept bragging that he got the best dish.)
To top off the night, we elected to have some fanciful desserts. We started off with the Khao Niew Dum, a black sticky rice with mango ice cream. The mango ice cream was very sweet and a bit overwhelming. It could be balanced with the black rice, but the bitterness of the rice overpowered the ice cream. Keira’s Kluay Tod was a warm, crispy banana with coconut ice cream that was slightly melting; I was personally a little unsure about it, as the banana was mush inside the crisp shell. Sam’s Khao Niew Mamuang, a sweet sticky rice with mango, was a bit too sweet for my palette. The proportions of the mango pieces were also triple the size of a toonie — too big for simple bites.
Overall, the whole three course meal and drinks totalled $137 including tip. Despite the dishes not fulfilling many of my flavour expectations, I still found it quite delicious and filling, and there were leftovers to take home and enjoy the next day. At the end of the night, I found the restaurant a tasteful introduction to Thai food.