By Anne DesBrisay
Is there a longing more desperate than the one for lemongrass? Particularly when the day is dreary and the wind is numbing and a tickle in the throat suggests bothersome things are brewing? Let others crave a burger or a chocolate bar, my rumblings tend to be for Thai green curry, a spicy yum salad, a really good pad Thai.
I find that when you need Thai food, you simply need Thai food and no amount of pretending otherwise is going to work. Trouble is, in this city — indeed in most northern cities — Thai food isn’t all it might be. It’s full of subtle aromatics, layered complexity, mushrooming intensity, masses of bursting-fresh herbs, that don’t translate — poor us — to a climate where all those good things come from afar and everything gets refrigerated. It means everything also suffers from a diminished vibrancy.
Whatever. We take what we can get, and in Ottawa West, it doesn’t get much better than Pookie’s. Prawn toast is my weakness. Yes, it’s caloric, but still it’s happy making and what begins lunch here. Perfumed with lime leaf, scallion, cilantro, the chopped shrimp and egg mixture is spread on thin toast, fried to crisp and brown and served with a sweet chili sauce.
Next, a palate cleansing tom yum soup, with eye stinging heat, followed by a wet stir fry of tilapia with peppers, mushroom, garlic, Thai basil, and red chilies. It has less oomph than we want, but less sugar than we usually get in other places that overdo the sweet, and we find it totally pleasant, the fish moist and soft, the veg with crunch and colour. It comes with a mound of Thai sweet rice and a little bit of green and cabbage-carrot crunch and costs a respectable $10.50
Total cost: $17.50 for prawn toast we didn’t need and soup, stir fry, and rice we did.
Hours: Open Tuesday to Friday for lunch and daily for dinner.
Pookie’s Thai Restaurant, 2280 Carling Ave., 613-321-1733.