Chiang Mai Thai 

Ah, summer ... the season for extra hot food. Burning mouth syndrome helps the Fahrenheit seem a little less feverish.

So I head to Chiang Mai Thai, the newish Thai restaurant in the plaza at Emerald and Orchard. It's a particularly appropriate hot weather choice because Chiang Mai is named for the mountainous capital city in northern Thailand where temperatures are often cooler than the rest of the really sultry country.

Imagine a shoe store empty of shelves. Now imagine filling that large, bright square room with tables and china trinkets. Hang sequined elephant tapestries from the walls, intermingled with back-lit photos of waterfalls that randomly tweet like birds. Voila, it is now a Thai restaurant.

That's the scene at Chiang Mai when a kind hostess meets me at the door and offers a booth and an ornate menu for a solo diner on a Tuesday night.

I do not feel alone, however; the face of Thailand's King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (the one Thai people honor every October for his strides in reforming and modernizing the country) peers at me benevolently.

I peruse traditional menu items such as curry and noodle dishes. There is also a variety of American pan-Asian standards like general's chicken. To start, I select a bowl of tom kah kai (also known as tom kah gai), a coconut, lemongrass soup with chicken and mushrooms afloat. And for an entrée, I go with the tofu pad thai--which is a determining dish for me. The waitress is alert and asks if egg is OK in my tofu dish, which is a check plus for vegetarians who are used to meaty surprises.

In no time a huge bowl of soup is looking me square in the eye. The broth is delicious and very flavorful, but the chicken is pinkish and globular. I fish out the chicken and dump it aside, but that's OK because the bowl is so big that I can't finish it anyway. And before I am done slurping out of the big spoon, the waitress delivers a beautiful plate of orange noodles.

But instead of the fettuccine-shape noodles I associate with pad thai, I get skinny, rounded spaghetti-style noodles. To be frank, I can't taste the difference, but I feel it. In my bones. Wait, that's rain. I feel the difference in my mouth, and it's curiously like another meal. It comes with a little bowl of crushed peanuts to sprinkle on top and I wished they included a little bowl of extra sauce too, not just because I like to tinker with my food but because the noodles were dry. Dry, yes, but also huge. I can't finish and I wind up taking home more than half.

As I'm forking my leftovers into a doggie bag, the waitress gives me a fortune cookie in a huge bowl on legs. The fortune reads: "Next summer you will dance to a different beat." And really any other beat besides the tweeting of fake birds will do me just fine.

--Jennifer Gelband thais her sneakers with double knots.

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