Hours: Lunch, Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday
Albany Park Thai restaurant.
If youre like me and cant afford Aruns, head north a few blocks to Wilson and Kedzie. For a tenth of the price, you'll find something just short of nirvana at Thai Valley. In a city where one cant cross the street without falling into a puddle of tom kha kai, this place stands out. Everything on the menu is a revelation -- plump, overstuffed egg rolls; sublimely aromatic red curry; deep-fried whole silver bass; ten salads; even duck soup. A recent visit began with taud mun, panfried fish cakes blended with scallions and spices, followed by shrimp shumai. The latter were perfect, cooked so well that the sweet creaminess of the shrimp was never overwhelmed by the wrapper. The dipping sauces, including cucumber relish, were subtle enhancements, not the main event, as is too often the case. Just as my girlfriend was about to clock me over the head for the last shumai, the yum koong arrived -- tender, smoky grilled shrimp served over red onions and lettuce, tossed with a sweet, tangy sauce. The pad kee mow also stood out, the heady fragrance of basil combining artfully with the almost candied-tasting noodles. Other places may work their dull magic over the docile herd, but Thai Valley aims higher-- the food is fresher, tastier, and more authentic. It's a shame the place isn't more popular, though it's tempting to keep it a jealously guarded secret.
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