Sunday, September 8, 2013

That mind-blowing Thai place in Vienna: Part 2 - this was no fluke

We try to make it over to Vienna every few months, and ever since we discovered Sri Thai Imbiss, the incredible hole-in-the-wall restaurant run by an insanely talented yet laughter-averse Thai chef, which I wrote about back in April, we have even more of a reason to make the hour-long trek there and back.

We just went to Sri Thai Imbiss for the second time, and I can confirm with 100% certainty that the stunning meal we had there the first time was in no way a fluke. This time it was even better. So good, in fact, that I can no longer bring myself to refer to the chef/owner as the curry nazi; her mastery is wholly worthy of another level of respect, rendering her restaurant's Seinfeldian/soup nazi-esque eccentricities completely trivial, and I must henceforth dub her the Curry Master.

Terka waiting patiently for the tom ka gai while taking in the rich, potent aroma of ingredients that was wafting through the front door

We ordered the tom ka gai again for the starter, and to date this is absolutely the best tom ka gai we've ever had - and we have both consumed tons of this stuff in our lifetimes. The Curry Master's soup is so aromatic, infused with such intense flavor, with such a potent and perfect balance of sweet and sour, and with such fresh ingredients, that we found ourselves shutting our eyes and moaning uncontrollably with each spoonful, savoring the rich, complex yet beautifully harmonious flavors as they crossed our palettes.

Terezia wanted to order the crispy duck, but was told that they didn't have any duck that night. And we're glad they didn't, as her backup order, fried green curry rice with chicken, which looked like a big pile of moist rice with a slight greenish hue and topped with a generous helping of freshly chopped cilantro, turned out to be an explosive symphony of sophisticated flavors. This was the culinary equivalent of Coltrane's My Favorite Things. There were so many notes, so many accents, so many layers, that it made our heads spin. Terezia was still trying to dissect all the flavors when we were savoring the leftovers the next day. I could roll around in a giant vat of this stuff with absolutely zero shame. Neither of us had ever had anything quite like this before, and if this dish were never to grace our palettes again, we'd still remember each and every emotionally resonant note for the rest of our lives. It was that good.

Last time I ordered the green curry chicken, which was so damn spicy it was like having your tastebuds pierced by hot darts. It was at the absolute upper limit of what either of us can handle on the spice-o-meter, so this time I opted for the red curry chicken (since red curry is milder than green). The red was still plenty spicy, and even more enjoyable because I could put more of it in my mouth with each spoonful and focus more on the rich, decadent flavors. It still had a serious kick to it, and was far spicier than any other red curry I've had, and even spicier than most Thai restaurants' green curries. This curry would absolutely destroy those people who wilt at the slightest hint of spiciness. The large fresh green peas and the small pieces of baby Japanese eggplant were a nice touch, and the curry itself was a life-affirming panoply of rich flavor. If I were forced to live in a vermin-infested, crap-encrusted, leperitic crack house, I would still be happy and complete if I could just mainline this stuff all day.

By the end we were both in the throes of a complete Thai food stupor. Verging on comatose, all I could bring myself to say was "goddamn" over and over, while slumped back in my chair, spotting the spicy curry from the corner of my lips with the napkin.

This time we sat on the little terrace out front, so we weren't able to watch the curry master as she worked her magic. Like last time, this was a two-person operation, with the Curry Master working away in the kitchen, lovingly preparing each dish to order (we waited nearly an hour for that tom ka gai), while the friendly server ran back and forth between helping in the kitchen and dealing with us.

Glazed over in a curry-induced coma

What really baffled us this time, however, is that during the entire two hours that we were there, there was only one other couple feasting on this woman's delicious food. I just don't understand this because there should have been a line out the goddamn door! Last time, the four tables inside were all occupied, which is how I would expect her place to be on a typical night. I hope such a non-busy evening is not the norm for her.

After we paid, the Curry Master popped outside and gave us a warm goodbye. We thanked her profusely for making such awe-inspiring food, and Terezia told her she had hands of gold, which is a translation of a Slovak compliment of high praise. It frustrates me to no end that Bratislava's scant Thai offerings don't even come anywhere close to this level of culinary amazingness, and that we have to trek all the way to Vienna just to go out for some good Thai food. But at least this place exists, and at least we discovered it, and we'll be returning as soon as we possibly can.


  1. Looks really promising :)
    Is this the place in Baumgasse?

    1. Yeah, this is on Baumgasse, by Landstrasser Haupstrasse.