Best New Restaurants 2015: #9, Nana
Thai empires are at war. Two years ago, Monte Wan, who owns the line-up-for-hours Adelaide West phenomenon Khao San Road, parted ways with Nuit Regular, the chef behind the three Sukhothai restaurants. Early last summer, Regular opened Pai, a restaurant specializing in northern Thai street food, on Duncan. Wan in turn opened Nana, near Trinity Bellwoods. The city’s Thai food nuts tend to pick sides. I prefer Nana—partly because it’s more intimate than Regular’s chaotic warehouses, but mostly because it’s more fun. Wan, his long hair twisted into a topknot, meets you at the door and becomes friends with everyone in the room. You sit on red plastic stools at a communal table under a canopy of Thai flags, shout your order over the old-school hip hop and kick back with a lemongrass rum cocktail. I’m a big fan of his chicken laab which swaps out the usual fine-ground meat for deep-fried breaded chunks, like gourmet morsels of KFC. His khao soi, a curry with egg noodles, rates above Regular’s for the rich depth of the broth and the crispiness of its deep-fried chicken cutlet. The dish that sums the place up is an irreverent variation on pad Thai that he calls pad mama, a tangled heap of thin noodles and scored sections of hotdog that, in the heat of the pan, open into garish pink blossoms. It’s deliciously greasy, a little ridiculous and the winner of this round.