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This week: Thai

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Thai Pastry & Restaurant

4925 N. Broadway 773-784-5399

Kuchai (Steamed Chive Dumplings) 1, 2

$3.95

Cho Mung

(Sauteed Chicken Wrapped in Thai Pasta) 1

$4.95

Chicken Satay 3

$4.95

Som Tum (Papaya Salad) 3

$5.95

Seafood Combination in Red Thai Curry 2, 3

$9.95

Roast Duck in Dark Soy Sauce

With Bok Choy Greens 4

$7.95

Cried Tiger (Broiled Beef in Spicy Sauce) 5

$5.75

Just south of Argyle Street is this cheerful Thai eatery where contrasting tastes and textures find balance and harmony. There's a broad selection of appetizers, noodle soups, and curry dishes plus house specialties like frog legs, whole red snapper, and eel. The combination of hot, sour, sweet, and salty flavors, at times within a single dish, calls for wines that emphasize balance rather than strike a single powerful note. It's best to avoid wines made from big and often pungent grape varieties like cabernet sauvignon and new-world chardonnay; wines lower in alcohol and higher in acidity, with soft tannins and a fair amount of residual sugar, are the best bets. The consulting expert on this trip was Scott Tyree, sommelier at Tru.

1 Nonvintage Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Reserve (Champagne, France), $29-$34. A typical blanc de blancs, this sparkling wine made of chardonnay grapes comes from a cool growing region with lime-rich chalk soil. Its medium-to-high acidity and crisp finish accent the earthy flavor of the chives in the dumplings while countering the heat of the dipping sauce. Complex floral, apple, and mineral notes also highlight the savory flavors of chicken and onion in the cho mung without overpowering the mild taste of the rice-flour pasta they're wrapped in. (Binny's, Sam's)

2 2000 Franz Kunstler Hochheimer Reichestal Riesling Kabinett (Rheingau, Germany), $13.99. The moderate-to-high amount of residual sugar and low level of alcohol in this medium-dry white are true to a traditional Riesling. Its fine flavor balance makes it a nice match to the slight bitterness and earthiness of the chive dumplings. It also works with the spices in the seafood combination, with the sweetness highlighting the subtle flavors of the mussels, shrimp, and whitefish, cooling off the hot spices, and cutting through the rich coconut milk in the red Thai curry. (Binny's)

3 1998 Robert Weil Riesling Spatlese (Rheingau, Germany), $32-$33. Spatlese means a wine made from late-harvested grapes, yielding a moderately sweet white wine with balanced acidity and hints of honey, apple, and mineral. This profile is just right not only to cut through the creamy peanut sauce that comes with the satay but also to stand up to the accompanying pickled cucumber salad. The wine works nicely with the citrus from the lime and rice vinegar in the som tum, its mineral element mellowing the salad's tartness. The rich concentration of flavor and low alcohol content also harmonize nicely with the spiciness of the seafood combination without overpowering it. (Sam's, Fox & Obel)

4 1999 Stefan Daniels Zinfandel (Redwood Valley, California), $18. A more unorthodox match to Asian food, this small producer's zinfandel has essences of rich raspberry and cassis with an aroma of black pepper and spice. Mendocino County's warm days, cool nights, and gravelly soil yield layers of prune and blackberry flavors, and the 1999 vintage had a long growing season, resulting in a wine that's concentrated yet moderate enough in tannins that it doesn't overpower the roast duck. It successfully cuts through the fat, leaving a cleaner yet still pleasantly gamey flavor on the palate. The wine's roundness and its notes of blackberry and caramel surround and complement rather than fight with the sweet dark soy sauce glaze and the mildly bitter bok choy greens. (Buy Low Liquors, Howard's Wine Cellar)

5 1999 Vins de Vienne Cotes du Rhone "Les Cranilles" (Rhone Valley), $19-$20. This cotes du rhone from the southern Rhone valley (one of the finest regions in France, and often overlooked) has nuances of violets, pepper, and spices. The blend of grenache and syrah grapes stands up to the chilies and garlic in the Cried Tiger, while the tannins are moderate enough to mitigate the bitter combination of fish sauce and mint. The muscle of the beef is softened by the structural fullness of the wine. Consumed together, the wine takes on a milder flavor (although it's still rich and oaky) while the dish becomes increasingly savory on the palate. (Sam's)

Binny's Beverage Depot 3000 N. Clark, 773-935-9400

Buy Low Liquors 5201 N. Clark, 773-769-0858

Fox & Obel Food Market 401 E. Illinois, 312-379-0146

Howard's Wine Cellar 1244 W. Belmont, 773-248-3766

Sam's Wines and Spirits 1720 N. Marcey, 312-664-4394

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