The Land of (Coconut) Milk & Honey

Have you ever eaten at a Thai place which was authentic, not westernized, which has many Asian vegetables grown organically especially for it, and which freshly squeezes its own coconut milk, and which means it when it uses the word “spicy?” -- Asaf Epstein enjoyed an authentically spicy experience at Thai House, a Thai restaurant in Tel Aviv.

I’m sure that many of you have been to a Thai restaurant before. It may have used to be exotic to find a Thai restaurant in a large Western-type city, but not anymore. Asian cuisine is all over the place. You can’t walk for 5 minutes in a bustling city like Tel Aviv without passing a place offering you Asian rice or Pad Thai. So when I told Daphna that we were going out to eat at a Thai restaurant in Tel Aviv, she didn’t immediately jump for joy. “Thai? We’ve eaten Thai a million times. Can’t you come up with something original?”

I then asked her what I will ask you now. Sure, you have eaten Thai food before, but have you ever eaten at a Thai place which was authentic, not westernized, which has many Asian vegetables grown organically especially for it, and which freshly squeezes its own coconut milk, as opposed to pouring it out of a can? Have you ever eaten at a Thai restaurant which means it when it uses the word “spicy?” Well, Daphna was intrigued by this pitch of mine, and I hope you will be, as well. Cause we have such a restaurant smack dab in the middle of Tel Aviv.

‘Thai House’ is located on the corner of Tel Aviv’s busy Bugrashov & Ben Yehuda streets. This would be our version of “Bangkok light” – crowded, hectic, full of life, and noisy for most of the day. Walking inside the restaurant, things quiet down substantially and the feeling is more similar to one of southern Islands in Thailand. The furniture is made of sturdy wood, the tables are spacious, the d?cor is filled with bamboo, lights are surrounded by thatched straw, and a nice bar is very nicely lit from above, with many small lights lined up under a straw top. The music is pleasant and quiet, providing an atmosphere while still allowing people to enjoy their dinner in peace.

We were seated by a smiling hostess and examined our menus. The first think you need to look for and understand when ordering food at Thai House is their red hot chili pepper system. Many dishes will be marked on the menu with a scale of spiciness ranging from 1 to 5 red chili peppers. Some dishes will have no such pepper next to their name, and these are safe for all – not spicy. I strongly suggest that you pay attention to this when ordering, because Thai House does not make compromises for non-Asian palates. This is just a part of the authenticity of Thai House. There are dishes for those who prefer non-spicy foods, for those who prefer very spicy foods, and for all in between. The friendly waiting staff will make sure to ask you about your spiciness preferences when you select a dish.

Thai House is the concept and creation of Yariv Malili and his wife Lek, who is from Thailand herself. Yariv studied in Thailand and decided to open an authentic Thai place in Israel, offering delicious exotic dishes of the different regions of Thailand – from the north to the Islands in the south. Thai House has been in business for 12 years and is highly regarded and appreciated by its clientele. As a testament to its uniqueness and authenticity, Thai diplomats enjoy dining there. That should say it all. It is strongly recommended that you call ahead and make reservations before going to eat at Thai House, as tables tend to fill up.

For my first course I chose the “3-pepper” spicy Laab Gai – finely chopped chicken salad, with onions, cucumbers, scallions, coriander, lime juice, and hot peppers. This was delicious and I know it is a great dish, not simply because I love spicy food. I know it because Daphna does not like spicy food and she broke her rule for this one and shared it with me. For her first course, Daphna selected the Som Tam – a salad of thinly sliced green papaya, cherry tomatoes, peanuts, garlic, and lime juice – a traditional Bangkok dish which she loved from the first part. I mostly stuck to my spicy dish, but I agree that the Som Tam was quite tasty, with the peanuts adding much flavor to the dish.

The first thing we noticed about the