Jet Tila’s Tale of Two Thais
There’s nothing quite as much fun as going to an ethnic eatery with a chef who comes from such exotic climes.
And going to two of them in one night is almost as much fun as shooting monkeys in a barrel.
So that’s just what ELV and his staff* did recently with uber-chef Jet (Don’t Try To Pronounce My Real Last Name) Tila — top toque at Encore’s Wazuzu.
Yup, two Thai dinners in one night — one at a Thai restaurant of our choosing and one of his — with many of the same dishes ordered at both for comparison’s sake.
The two restaurants chosen were Ocha Thai (ELV’s choice) and Krung Siam (Tila’s fave). Some of the dishes ordered at both included waterfall beef salad, Thai pork jerky, green papaya salad, and chicken larb. (Btw: Tila informed us that, in Thailand, there are five different types of larb. Duh.)
(Btw # 2: Jet’s not as impressed with the food at Lotus of Siam as just about every critic in the country — but that’s another column.)
Tila’s terrific taste talents told us the broth in Ocha tasted canned, and the pork jerky there — not of the caliber served at Krung — and he was spot on both times.
As for the waterfall (grilled) beef salad, again, we were (again) forced to agree with him that Krung’s version had the snappier, fresher feel.
As for those larbs, if you look closely you’ll see that Krung’s was/is the more precisely made, although both were seasoned splendidly.
Aside from the mixed seafood hot pot at Ocha, the other clinker of the evening (from ELV’s perspective) was the grilled octopus at Krung. Nothing wrong with the ingredients or its degree of doneness, but, like a lot of grilled food these days, this cephalopod was saturated with an artificial gas/kerosene smell that left us cold. If ELV could pass a law, grilling over gas would be banned.
But things warmed up considerably, when Jet ordered a “medium spicy” green papaya salad festooned with shrimp. He said he told the chef it should be an “8” on the 1-10 scale, but three bites in, with our mouth coated and aflame with penetrating, oil-infused, never-ending prig kee nu chile heat (chile pain that lasted a good 20 minutes and was unfazed by gulp after gulp of Thai iced tea), he then admitted that it “mistakenly” came out of the kitchen a full-blown “10,” and was spiced so hot that “…only old Thai men eat it that way.”
How hot was it? So hot that Wynn/Encore chef Samuel (call me “Sammy”) Morse, one of our dining companions (and no stranger to spicy food) looked like someone had put one of these in his mouth after two bites. Rather than swallow immense amounts of Thai iced tea and beer as ELV did, he ran (not walked, ran) to the men’s room — where he spent an inordinate amount of time in there trying to quell the heat. All to Tila’s immense amusement.
That Tila…he’s quite the kidder. Especially when someone else’s tongue is being seared.
“But revenge shall be mine,” sayeth ELV!
Next time we see him, we’re making him eat our mother’s meatloaf.
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* Sarah Feldberg‘s employers at GMG and Fox can breathe easy…ELV only employs her considerable culinary capacities (intellectual, not digestive) on an occasional basis. And by “occasional basis” we mean whenever she’ll go out with us.