Chalk Talk: “Thai Me Up” Dinner at Malai Kitchen In Uptown Dallas

This week Malai  Kitchen, the Thai-Vietnamese restaurant in Uptown, held the first of their public “Thai Me Up” dinners: Five-course meals with beverages for an affordable $55. I attended as a guest on behalf of SideDish.

New York Strip Steak Over Sticky Rice with Chili Sauce

When construction began on Malai Kitchen in 2010, I was filled with a mixture of excitement and skepticism. Excitement that I would be living within walking distance of a restaurant serving food from one of the most exciting culinary areas of Asia, but skepticism that they would put out an eatable version. The spot was already jinxed: The previous occupant, Tom Tom Noodle House,  did not make it.

As things turned out, I moved out of the area and did not get to try Malai’s food until the dinner this week. I am pleased to report that Malai Kitchen delivers some of the most carefully crafted and carefully executed Thai food in Dallas. But I must qualify that I was at one of their monthly Thai Me Up dinners (sign up to be contacted either on their web site or their Facebook page) and next to none of these dishes are (yet) on the regular menu.Other attendees at the dinner and restaurant regulars I chatted with all assured me that the menu staples are just as good.

Char Grilled Chicken Hearts and Livers in a Street Spice Rub

That said, below is a cavalcade of the one-of-a-kind specialties prepared by consulting chef Paul Singhapong in conjunction with execuchef Braden Wages and sous chef Ivan Nava. Owners Braden and Yasmin Wages (she runs the front-of-house) have put together a cozy place with a comfortable patio that makes you feel like you are in a backstreet in a cosmopolitan European city. The bar turns out respectable cocktails with a southeast Asian accent (we had a Thai Rum Shooter with the first course that quickly encouraged strangers at our family-style table to start talking to each other) and although I did not get a chance to look at the list, the wines the restaurant chose for our meal were respectable. A 2010 Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer from Alsace had body and sweetness to go with the broken fish curry (below). A 2008 Vinos Pinol Portal Blanc was light and crisp with fresh lemon citrus flavors that made it an admirable buttress to the powerful lemon grass and seafood flavors in the seafood soup.

It is good to see a place so adventurous thriving in Uptown, a location where most restaurants hew to the tried-and-true. It is also good to see adventurous Asian cuisine inside the city of Dallas. I usually stick the plentiful representation in the suburbs to the north, east, and west of Northwest Highway.

Street Salad Snack. Take these ingredients (ginger, dried shrimp, peanuts, lime, red onions, toasted coconut, chilies and fish sauce) and... on a betel leaf. Eat with your hands using the leaf as a wrap.
Sour Tamarind Seafood Soup with Prawns, Mussels and Chilean Seabass
Broken Fish Curry with Redfish, Wild Ginger, Water Spinach, Noodles and Rice Three Ways with Spicy Nam Prik
Back Of House Team: Ivan Nava (sous), Paul Singhapong (consulting) and Braden Wages (execuchef)