Part of our job, as we’ve mentioned, is to cull the wheat from the chaff in terms of MenuPages user reviews. Our shill-o-meter is pretty finely tuned, and we pride ourselves on our attempts not to let through any obvious faux-this-restaurant-rocked!!! reviews.
But we found ourselves perplexed when this review for Jitlada Thai House showed up in the queue:
One that is picky about food has to admit that Jitlada not only provides with an excellent service and a nice atmosphere, but the seasoning of Chef Toe (the owner too) is the best in town and, perhaps, in the world. I travel back and forth to New york and tried the best places in Manhattan, the Village, midtown, upper East side, and so far no restaurant can match Toe’s recipes. Now, Toe shares her expertise of years ( said she cooks since she was 8 years old in Thailand, picked it from her mother) with her cooks in the kitchen, which by the way she treats like part of her family, so they all can come up with the same seasoning. Perhaps the secret of Jitlada’s taste is that every day, Toe runs to specific stores to get fresh made noodles, tofu, and veggies. No MSG, no frozen vegetables, no canned food… An then every meal is made from scratch.
Namechecking the chef? Red flag. Random inclusion of the reviewer’s credentials, with overly specific reference to New York neighborhoods? Red flag. Personal history on the chef? Red flag. Kitchen details? Red flag. But…
I keep telling her the curry sauce she makes needs to be patented. Its the best! No to mention how delicious that Pad Thai is, and my favorite: “Shrimp with broccoli, with fresh sauteed garlic, lite on the oil”, I used to order over the phone from The Brown Elephant, a thrift store I used to work for, right next to Jitlada on Halsted and Waveland. I remember Chef Toe cooked my order not only perfect but delicious, surpassing Mee Restaurant on 54 and 9th Ave. in New York. That was 8 years ago, the place was tiny, but comfortable enough. Shrimp or Chicken Basil, Crab Rangoon, Shrimp-Chicken curry fried rice… you pick, they’re are celestial.
Some serious personal detail here — the thrift store, a specific callout to a New York restaurant (that is, by the by, still in business) — this is a little more detail than a flack would go into.
Back in Chicago, I visited Jitlada again. Chef Toe now has a bigger place, but unlike other restaurants that grow and get careless about the quality of their food, Chef Toe still keeps the right seasoning, the right Thai food after taste, and the staff always have a service with a smile. I joke sometimes and tell “the Chef”, as I always call her, that when I die “you’ll cook Thai food for everybody in my funeral, so they get happy.” She smiles. But the truth is that, now that I’m back to Chicago and to Jitlada, I don’t want to die, I wanna live forever on Jitlada’s Thai food.
This is just far too deeply weird to be fake. It sets the bells off on our WTF-meter, but also we find it oddly endearing. We have no idea what we’d want served at our funeral, now that we think about it.
You should try Jitlada Thai House, don’t take my word. But if the food excels the rest of Thai restaurants in Chicago, never hesitate to thank the Chef for her dedication, giving the world a taste of her lifetime. She’ll come out and greet you. But then, besides all this review, I believe Chef Toe’s secret to get the perfect taste, is that she cooks WITH LOVE. I should shut up, or my mom would get jealous.
We’re sold (we think) — it’s not a shill. It is just maybe the most awesome, personal, intense, wacky, ridiculous review we’ve ever read. We love it.
[All photos from Jitlada’s official site]