A meal conceived by Malai Kitchen’s executive chef Keith Cedotal (Park) combines lyrical combinations of fresh noodles, sticky rice, and hot chiles into a Thai-Vietnamese ode. The low-sodium, from-scratch bases just further the theme. Owners Yasmin (Park) and Braden (R+D Kitchen) Wages’ backgrounds in hospitality are apparent from the get-go. Talented servers with sunny dispositions describe tom kha gai and drunken noodles like old friends. Jason Kosmas’ cocktail lineup furthers the conviviality with frozen Vietnamese limeades and ginger bird margaritas, both of which combine fresh, bright flavors with a red herring (basil and chiles, respectively). Don’t miss out on the drunken noodles (a generous bowl of freshly made flat noodles, spicy chopped tenderloin, bell peppers, and Thai basil), tom kha gai (thick with chicken breast, pungent galangal, Texas organic shiitake mushrooms, and scallions), and the expertly marinated cucumber salad. But it is Malai’s steamed Chilean sea bass with baby bok choy, chili lime broth, and rice noodles that’s keeping me awake at night. The fish was not just moist; it was buttery and silky. Likewise the mango sticky rice smash dessert with coconut custard, diced mango, and a crispy rice topping was as luxurious on the tongue as it was amusing to the palate.
For more information on Malai Kitchen, visit our restaurant guide.