North Side Review: Sura Thai Bistro
By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on May 3, 2007 2:30PM
With the exception of Arun's, going out for Thai food in Chicago is pretty predictable. Most places are mom-and-pop, family-owned joints that serve a standard (and usually delicious) selection of Pad Thai and other noodles, curries of various types, and deep-fried appetizers. Delicious? Yes. Innovative? Not so much. Despite these perceived shortcomings, Chicagoist loves eating Thai food nonetheless. Which is why we were intrigued to read about the opening of Sura Thai Bistro on the Chicago MenuPages blog.
Though Sura has only been open for less than a week, the only tell-tale sign of their newness was the absence of a liquor license. Otherwise, we never would have known, since the place was hopping on a Tuesday night at 9 p.m.
The concept of Sura is one that seems destined for success. Create a sleek and modern space complete with ineffectual swinging, hanging chairs. Add in cheap Thai "tapas" to hit up the growing small-plates trend. Finish it all off with a DJ. Voila! Thankfully, most of the food is pretty good too.
We opted to order all tapas and skip the main course menu, so as to try a larger selection of items. We started off with the coconut crusted shrimp, which arrived on a nest of fried noodles. This dish was the worst of what we ordered; the coconut breading was too thick, so it masked the flavor of the shrimp. Furthermore, what to do with the fried nest of noodles. Use our fingers to break it up? Let it rest as garnish?
Better were our next two choices. The duck crepes were filled with succulent duck breast, just the way we like it. The chef showed some restraint here, as it would have been easy to go overboard with sauces and accompaniments. The server-recommended crispy ginger calamari came in a cone-shaped glass on a bed of greens and tomato chutney. The tomato chutney was cloyingly sweet to the point of being inedible, but the calamari and the avocado green onion emulsion dipping sauce were outstanding. The breading on the calamari was substantive enough to give crunch, but not so much that it overpowered the actual calamari inside.
Skip the green papaya salad at Sura; there isn't anything wrong with it, but it isn't much different than the one at your local Thai joint, with the exception of the two shrimp perched on top. We also didn't love the seared scallops, which were puny, water-logged, and served on an odd composition of chopped-up fruit (including canned pineapple — lame). The lettuce cups we ordered came served in phylo cups, a clever take on a traditional dish. The chicken inside the cups was tender, with a peanut sauce that is creamy and full of the peanut flavor, without being overpowering.
Even with some of the dishes being disappointing, we still would recommend Sura. After all, with each tapas plate costing between $4 and $6, a slip up here or there isn't a huge concern. Our suggestion is to get there in the next week or so, so you can take advantage of the BYOB action. Sura expects to have a fully-stocked bar after then.
Sure Thai Bistro is located at 3124 N. Broadway; 773-248-7872. Open daily for lunch, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., and dinner, 5 p.m.–12 a.m., Friday and Saturdays until 2 a.m.