Monday, November 16, 2009

Rama - Thai Cuisine

Now living in Baton Rouge, one usually thinks about all the fresh seafood and cajun cuisine. All of these foods are great, and there are plenty of those restaurants to be found in this area. But one of my favorite things to find is the small authentic food joints in my home town. Now Baton Rouge may not have the huge ethnic populations like a New York or San Francisco, but there are some hidden gems around town. One that I have found is Rama. A tiny little Thai restaurant with no more than thirty seats. This place felt like home as soon as I walked in.

The menu is loaded with a plethora of delicious sounding thai dishes, some I had never heard of and some traditional ones that you will find at any good Thai place. For the first courses, we got a nice mix of flavors. Jay and I started with some shrimp chips and fried wontons. The chips were light and had a nice savory shrimp flavor, and the peanut sauce, they served to dip it in, was wonderful. The fried wontons weren't much to write home about but I guess I can write a little. They were crisp. The filling had a nice flavor, but there wasn't much of it in the wonton to catch it all. The soup on the other hand was perfect. As soon as my eyes locked onto "Pork Crackling soup", I knew I had to try that. (I mean fried pork sin in a soup? C'mon) As the soup arrived I could smell the sweet aroma of pork and see the fried treats that lie before me. The rich pork flavor that was built into the soup was outstanding. The crispy crackling, tender pieces of pork, and green onion made for a harmony of flavor and texture. YUM.

 For entree I decided to go with one of Thailand's national dishes, Pad Thai. Now anytime I go to "authentic" restaurants I am a firm believer that you must be able to do the staples right first. If an italian restaurant doesn't have a good spaghetti and meatball, the likelihood that the rest of the menu is worth trying is slim. Now from the soup I figured this was probably going to be some good pad thai, and I wasn't disappointed. The mound of noodles was placed in front of me, and the scent of peanuts tickled the nostrils. I could see the the all shrimp, pork, and chicken that loaded the dish. The noodles were stir fried nicely. The sauce was clean with a nice mix of sweetness and slightly spicy finish. And with the crunchy bean sprouts and fresh cilantro the dish really came together.
As I have said before, you have to finish a good meal with something sweet. So when the nice waitress offered dessert I was all ears. Not much for options here but the uniqueness of the choice had me intrigued. You can get fried bananas or apples topped with ice cream, pretty simple right. However they make their own ice creams at Rama, vanilla, coconut, and DURIAN. Yeah I said it, DURIAN. Now I am a fan of all ice cream, but durian had me excited and scared all at the same time. This is the one fruit I have seen Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) cringe at the sheer smell of it. But I will always try anything once especially when it comes to ice cream. The plates were placed in front of us and the slightly greenish yellow ice cream looked me straight in the face. I grabbed a small spoonful and took a sniff, a little odd but nothing outrageous. Now for the taste it was quite delicious. The initial flavor is a straight sweetness, but then the durian creeps up. I am sure the sweetness masks the intensity of the bitter, often considered off putting flavor of this fruit, but I actually enjoyed the contrast in the ice cream.

Rama was such an enjoyable dining experience. The food was great but the service was just as good. The lady, one of only two that work there, was delightful and charming. She was more than happy to talk to us and answer all our questions about the food, especially that interesting ice cream. This place has been around 30 years, and the only thing I was sad about upon leaving was that I hadn't found it sooner. Don't worry it won't be my last.
Rama on Urbanspoon

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