Khao Thai, Ottawa ON
New in Ottawa, new in Byward Market, my roommate and I decided to go out to a restaurant without consulting any website, local, or posted menu. This is a pretty dangerous activity when you’re vegan, as you could end up at a place similar to The Keg if you’re not careful (yes, none of the salads there are vegetarian). But we risked it and walked in to Khao Thai. Thai restaurants often have vegetarian and tofu options, so we thought we were playing it safe. Of course, you always have to be on the lookout for that dreaded fish sauce, which the Thai just love to put in everything to add flavour, so we asked.
“Does the Pad Thai sauce have fish in it?”
Of course, you’d logically assume that no, there is no fish sauce since the restaurant boasts an extensive “vegetarian” menu. Well, at least you’d think that the server would know the answer to this question. Or would pretend to know. But when all you get is humming and hawing, a “no, no fish” from one server and a “yes, absolutely” from another, you start to lose trust in your only source of information regarding the ingredients of the food you are about to order. That’s when I knew that quite possibly, I would not be eating vegetarian that night, despite all my efforts.
(Important lesson here: when a non-vegetarian restaurant has a “vegetarian” menu, proceed with caution. I’ve seen veg menus at some restaurants (in Montréal, for example), in which they have salmon and tuna. Other veg menus (many Asian restaurants everywhere) list soups inexplicably made with beef, chicken or fish stock, and lots of the menu items may be made with a sauce with fish additives.)
We ended up not risking it and opting instead for the Pad Ma-kua Yaow (eggplant and tofu) $12 and the Pad Khee Mao (noodle/veg dish) ($12). We started with the Por Pia Sod (fresh spring rolls) ($8).
I will admit, the food was good (even if the spring rolls were not really that exciting). However, considering my roommate and I eat like starved hogs, the portion sizes were slightly disappointing. I personally found the eggplant and tofu dish a bit too salty for my tastes and the noodles a bit oily, but we ordered white rice, which was perfectly done and it helped. Price wise, I guess it is good for Byward Market, but I still found it steep. Maybe the restaurant was trying to do the “we’re-too-fancy-for-large-portions-and-bargain-prices” schtick, but c’mon, Pad Thai… ’nuff said.
So, here’s what I liked and didn’t like, in conclusion.
Liked: tasty food, atmosphere, friendly service, perfect rice, clean restrooms.
Disliked: sticky menus, dried up garnishes, portion size : price, lack of knowledge re: fish ingredients (no, oyster sauce is not vegetarian), baby crying at another table (why do you bring your baby to a sit-down non-family restaurant? why??)
Would I go again? No. Was it a terrible experience? No. Was the food good? Yes. Do I trust their vegetarian options actually being vegetarian? Absolutely not.
Quite frankly, as a vegan, I usually try to avoid Thai food unless it’s coming from a vegetarian restaurant. You never know what fish is hiding in your sauce. And your servers know little more.
103 Murray St. Ottawa ON, K1N 5M5