Pop-up Thai tasti­ness in Can­dler Park

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

A lot of what we as­sume is ap­pro­pri­ate spici­ness, in eth­nic cook­ing in par­tic­u­lar, is over­stated. Think about it. You go to a Thai restau­rant, for ex­am­ple, and say that you want your food “Thai-spicy.” Af­ter a cou­ple of bites, your lips feel like a ring of fire, you are cry­ing and your nose is drip­ping onto your plate. The rea­son is that the chef most likely has a pot of mild sauce that he dumps chiles into if you like it hot. That can oblit­er­ate other fla­vors.

All of this is by way of let­ting you know that when you go to the new you’re not go­ing to be stuff­ing bum­ble­bees in your pie hole. Talal (which it­self means “mar­ket”) is a so-called pop-up restau­rant that op­er­ates 6-10 p.m. Fri­day through Sun­day in­side Gato in Can­dler Park

The chef is 27-year-old Par­nass Lim Sa­vang, who has al­ready worked at a handful of the city’s best restau­rants, and his lo­cally-sourced cui­sine is go­ing to stun you.

First, a warn­ing: Talal’s lo­ca­tion in­side Gato means you’re go­ing to be com­pet­ing with a crowd for one of four booths or a seat at the bar. When five of us went last Fri­day, we couldn’t get a seat af­ter 45 min­utes and crept away to nearby La Fonda. How­ever, when I went on Sun­day with a friend, we scored bar seats im­me­di­ately.

Talal’s menu, which changes reg­u­larly, in­cludes only five apps and en­trées and a cou­ple of sides, all in­tended to be shared. There’s no al­co­hol served for the pre­sent, so BYOB. What­ever you do, or­der the co­conut wa­ter. You’ll be served a whole, young co­conut cut open at the top. It’s filled with the de­li­cious sweet wa­ter that is nat­u­rally pre­sent be­fore co­conut milk is con­sti­tuted. Sip it through a straw and you can also scrape the in­te­rior with a long spoon to pull out soft co­conut flesh.

There are two dishes we or­dered to share as starters. Yum phon­la­mai’s cen­tral in­gre­di­ent is peaches from Fort Valley’s Pear­son Farm. Per­fectly ripe and shock­ingly tasty for this early in the season, the fat slices are tossed with pineap­ple, lemon­grass, cilantro, mint, co­conut, shallots and spring onions.

Talal Mar­ket, McLen­don Ave., 404-371-0889). (1660

Equally mind-blow­ing is nam prik pao: sugar snap peas rolled in red chile jam, with sor­rel, fried shallots and puffed rice.

For my en­trée, I chose sai ua samun phrai, a fat, herb-spiced sausage, sliced and served with mush­room broth for dip­ping. You can wrap the sausage in leafy greens with pick­led cel­ery or eat them with a sticky rice like you’ve never had be­fore, served in a tra­di­tional Thai bas­ket.

Our other en­trée was a large bowl of tom yum pla. If you like the lunchtime give-away tom yum soup in Thai cafes around town, this ver­sion is go­ing to blow your mind. It’s a hot and sour soup that is fish-based. Its red snap­per has no funky ev­i­dence of over­cook­ing. There’s also lemon­grass, gin­gery galan­gal root, Thai green chiles, oys­ter mush­rooms, cilantro and its spicier cousin, cu­lantro. The lay­ers of fla­vor in this soup are as­ton­ish­ing and, yes, it’s pretty damn spicy.

Un­for­tu­nately, the restau­rant’s dessert, made with a fer­mented rice ice cream and lime zest, was sold out. Un­for­tu­nately, too, Talal doesn’t ac­cept reser­va­tions. You have un­til Septem­ber to sa­vor Chef Sa­vang’s break­through cui­sine. Go.

Cliff Bo­s­tock is a former psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­stock@gmail.com.

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