AFTER ITS SUCCESSFUL BUT SCALED-DOWN PANDEMIC OPENING, Thai restaurant Pichai has at last stashed away its takeout boxes and focused instead on pleasing diners on-site. In their sleek dining room, just south of Saint-Hubert Plaza, Montrealers have been embracing the locally novel pleasures of som tam laced with Ontario peanuts, laab with grilled duck hearts, pork neck on iced yu choy greens, and knockout Berkshire pork and fermented sticky-rice sausage. The culinary inspiration comes from executive chef Jesse Mulder’s years of living and cooking in Thailand. So, the food is Thai (and often, Isaan), but with a local twist on the ingredients — say, Nordic shrimp from Matane; in Gaspé, rainbow trout raised by Denis Ferrer (now that his legendary Cerf de Boileau is gone); and miniature Thai eggplants from Ferme Beaulieu. Nora Gray sommelier Élisabeth Racine curated a list of low-intervention white and orange wines that lend themselves to inspired pairings. If you prefer, there are also refreshing ciders and a range of brews from Brasserie Dunham. Mulder and his chef, Jesse Grasso, conjure up brightly flavoured convivial meals that please everyone. You’ll find Thai families here, enthralled with the uncompromising tastes of home, as well as well-travelled locals, equipped with their own memories of Bangkok sois. Just like the Thai-tea tiramisu — creamy, crunchy and coconutty, with a funky edge — Pichai has verve.
Photography by: Matthew Perrin