Crispy morning glory and shrimp salad
Saturday night at Jitlada was absolutely packed, so we were lucky to get the last table before the waitlist started when we stopped by to try a few of the new dishes. There's now a small card of specials on the tables and Jazz will also tell you about other specials not listed. Most of the dishes on the specials card are on the pricier side -- lobster tails and such -- so we tried the two dishes Jazz suggested: pork belly with sator beans in yellow curry and an unusual salad of crispy morning glory stems with shrimp. The morning glory dish was a big hit -- crunchy saffron-colored batter coated the morning glory stems (they're similar to pea shoots in taste), which were then paired with shrimp in a light tangy dressing, showered with fried shallot slices. When the dish of cabbage and carrots on ice arrives, you know you're in for some serious heat, and pork belly with sator beans was serious, alright. The pungent yellow curry sauce was definitely one of Southern Thailand's hotter offerings, with slices of tender pork belly combined with Thai eggplant and the wild-tasting sator beans, topped with stalks of Thai peppercorns (left). Eating this dish is like passing a class in advanced Thai cuisine. I was less enthusiastic about shrimp and pineapple in lemon yellow curry, since hot pineapple slices in soup didn't work quite as well as some of the other dishes. Matt loved one of the old favorites, the rice salad, for its perfect spice level and combination of so many flavors, with lemongrass leading the charge. We were pretty full after all this but couldn't pass up the luscious sticky rice and mango topped with creamy condensed milk. As I said hi to Tui in the kitchen, a nice-looking salmon curry dish came out, looking somewhat less dangerous, spice-wise, and I made a note to try it next time. (I love intense heat, but it's not always easy on the other guests I'm eating with, and it tends to obscure the taste of dishes that come after it.)
It's great that Jitlada isn't resting on its much-deserved laurels, but continues to try new dishes and push the boundaries of authentic Thai food without resorting to "fusion" cuisine.
Tip: Make a reservation on weekends, or eat on a weeknight for even more attention from Jazz and the kitchen. And don't miss the framed receipt on which Matt Groening drew Homer Simpson when he ate there.