SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition
Tom Silargorn has a flair for the dramatic. His soups are all served in ringed Mongolian hot pots, blue flames and sparks shooting up through the tube at their center; every day you order tom kha gai feels like July 4. And his best seafood dish, the steamed sea bass with chile and lime (pla kra pong nuang manow, arrives in an elevated chafing dish shaped like a fish. Flames underneath keep the milky broth the fish floats in bubbling, its perfume smelled halfway across the room.
And what a perfume! The description "chile and lime" sounds almost austere, but the profusion of herbs covering the surface of the fish give a better indication of its baroque flavor. Thick slices of garlic, green onions, and flecks of minced shallots. Skinny birds-eye chiles in red and green. Chinese celery stalks, looking more like flower stems than their Western counterpart, and their toothy leaves. Underneath the herbs, of course, can be sensed the rumbling funk of fish sauce.
The slicing burn of the red and green chiles, whetted by the lime, has the power to wound. Sip the broth too quickly, and you'll find yourself sputtering and hacking, wishing that you had some way to fan your sinuses. But the fish, from cheek to tail, is so tender, so delicate, that you forgive the dish the pain it causes, and each bite of celery offers a cool, fleeting solace. High drama, indeed.
Lers Ros: 730 Larkin (at Ellis), 931-6917; and 307 Hayes (at Gough), 874-9661; www.lersros.com.
Other favorites in this series: