Maenam still makes mouths water after all these years

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      Nearly 12 years ago, Vancouver chef Angus An and his Bangkok-born wife, Kate Auewattanakorn reinvented Thai food in Vancouver.

      Since opening Maenam at 1938 West 4th Avenue, it has astonished countless diners with the many ways it incorporates fresh and sustainable West Coast ingredients into mouthfuls of Southeast Asian flavour.

      I recently dropped by as part of my personal mission to support the local restaurant industry during its tough economic times. And it didn’t disappoint.

      The highlight of the meal was the 8 Spices Lingcod, which comes with baby corn, peppers, and basil leaves bathed in a multitude of flavours. Lingcod are found in B.C. waters—pure West Coast cuisine—but the enchanting and vibrant spicing made me feel like I was on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

      This is Thai food full of personality, with an elegance and precision that’s reminiscent of fine French cuisine. And no wonder—An is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where he studied under several star chefs. An’s love of Thai cooking was forged at Chef David Thompson’s legendary Nahm restaurant in London, where he met his wife.

      What’s offered at Maenam is unlike the more Chinese-style fare available at some other Thai restaurants in the region. It actually brought back warm memories of an elegant evening spent dining on Thai cuisine at the ultrachic Bambou restaurant in Paris.

      When chef Angus An opened Maenem in 2009, he was eager to offer a new take on Thai food.
      Ellen Ho

      The second main course at Maenam, Stir-Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts, was also something to savour, with peppers, baby corn, and shimeji mushrooms. The chicken was exceptionally crisp. If there was a downside to this delicious dish, it was that it’s a little shy on sauce, so it didn’t fully meld with the white rice on my plate.

      The dessert was a coconut cream cake with roasted hazelnuts. It actually tasted like a soft version of cornbread. That’s somewhat unusual in a city where desserts are invariably sweet.

      For those who worry about eating out in a pandemic, Maenam passed the test. There was a Plexiglas barrier between my table and the one next to me and everyone was fully masked. The service was brisk and attentive; the minimalist décor was refreshing. I’ll return in the future.