This past saturday my husband and I celebrated the 8th Anniversary of our first in-person meeting, affectionately dubbed our “Milaniversary.” For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I first “met” on an online MUD, based on the Wheel of Time series in 2004. We became good friends and when I got the chance to go to Italy in 2005, he came and met me and my mother in Milan. We spent the whole day together, the three of us, sipping cokes in a piazza, visiting the Duomo, and finally getting in dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
I like celebrating the little things in life; in fact, I’ll take almost any excuse to go out and celebrate, even if it’s just going out for dinner. So in honor of our 8th Milaniversary, we decided to go out for Chinese food. Mr. Isinvar looked up Chinese places on the internet and we decided try a restaurant called “No-No,” which had a wide variety of asian cuisine, Chinese included. We had trouble making reservations online, so decided to just head downtown around 6 and try our luck with just walking in.
So we headed downtown. My husband didn’t write down the exact address, but we knew the street it was on wasn’t a long street so we weren’t worried, figuring we’d pass it along the way. Well, we didn’t. We walked all the way to the end of the street before I pulled out my iPhone and found the number address. Lucky 13. We meandered on back towards the beginning of the street toward #13. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the address and found that “No-No” had been replaced with “Chang Thai” which explained why we missed it on our first pass. I briefly thought about looking for a Chinese place close by on my iPhone, wanting to keep the tradition alive, but the place looked really nice and we like Thai food very much, so we decided to give it a go.
Chang Thai a rather small restaurant, and when you walk in you can easily imagine that this place used to be a bar by the layout. There’s a bar lining the back wall and small sort of alcove entrance way to hang your coat. There’s only room for about 25 diners at a time and one waitress. However, the atmosphere is very nice with a black and gold color scheme that works really well because of the large window that illuminates the whole room. Based on the high ceilings, my guess is the building is probably close to 100 years old, and the walls are covered with neatly arranged photographs of Thailand. A very beautiful space.
We were seated rather quickly and had a chance to look over the menu, which was written in both Dutch and English. For a starter, we chose the Mix Chang Thai, which was a mixture of the available starters for two people. It had dumplings with chicken and garlic, chicken sate with peanut sauce, thai-style shrimp cake with plum sauce, vegetarian spring rolls, and BBQ shrimp. Both Mr. Isinvar and I really enjoyed the shrimp cake and the dumpling, but the whole starter was really delectable. The plum sauce was a big hit on all the starters. Dinner was off to a very good start.
For the main course, I chose the Pa Neung Ma Naow, which was steamed sea bass with chili, garlic and lime; Mr. Isinvar chose the Laab Ped, a salad of minced duck with red onions, cilantro, lettuce, and nuts. Our dishes came with a bowl of white rice for us to share. The presentation of the food on both plates was very pleasing and made me eager to dig into my dinner.
The sea bass was cooked very well and the mixture of the chili and lime was a good balance of spicy and tart. I really enjoyed the sauce with the sea bass; however I didn’t really care for the cilantro garnish that came with my dish. It didn’t really seem to serve any person and the potent fragrance of the cilantro really detracted from the aroma and flavor of the garlic, chili and lime mixture. There were also whole slice of garlic and spicy peppers on top of the fish that I am not certain were meant to be consumed. I am fairly certain if I had taken a bite of the whole slice of garlic, it would overwhelm the entire dish.
Mr. Isinvar really seemed to enjoy the Laab Ped. It had a good amount of spice and the red onions added a nice crunch texture to the dish. Cilantro was also fairly prominent in the dish, but it was integrated into the salad nice and so did not detract too much from the other flavor. The duck itself was cooked very well and very tender.
The service during our dinner was very good until the very end. The restaurant got quite full towards the end of our meal, but our waitress never cleared our plates or said a word to us, even though she passed by our table several times. We had thought about ordering dessert, but we couldn’t get her attention to clear the plates. I briefly joked that I doubt she would notice if we just got up and left without paying; I have a sneaking suspicion she wouldn’t have. This would be the first time I ever considered dining and dashing, except I doubt we would actually have to dash. After about a half hour of waiting, my husband went to the bar to ask for the check; it would be almost another twenty minutes before she would actually bring it out to us. We rounded off the night by getting ice cream in Groenplaats before catching the train home, instead of sampling any of the available desserts there for who knew how much time that would add to our evening.
All in all, it was a very delicious dinner, but the service towards the end of the meal really detracted from the entirety of the experience. No one likes to feel that they’re in the invisible corner at a restaurant. The next time we want to get Thai food again in Antwerp we will probably just go back to our favorite place, A-Thai.
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