Friday, September 12, 2008

Modrý Zub Noodle Bar - Revisited

"The greater your capacity to love, the greater your capacity to feel the pain." Jennifer Anniston

I love Thai food. A lot.

So, when Major Dan and the Michigan Man told me they were at Modrý Zub Noodle Bar, I hustled over there to meet them after work.I had them put my order in so it would be ready when I got there.

It's hard to believe that it was 18 months ago that I wrote my previous post about this spot.The menu changed quite a great deal since then, with many new additions and some subtractions. And they still offer a small sushi selection, which I've never tried.

They layout of this mostly Thai restaurant is fairly unique. There is a cafe-style dining area up front, with big windows looking out on a street near Wenceslas Square.In the back, there is an open kitchen with counter and cash register where you can order food to go. There are a few seats where you can eat in a more fast food-style setting.Michigan Man ordered the Phad Thai with chicken (155 CZK).Phad Thai is probably my favorite Thai dish. But I didn't get it myself because I'd almost always been disappointed with the total blandness of Modrý Zub's version. Someone once told me it depended who was cooking, and I did once have a good version there.

Whatever the reason, the Phad Thai on this night was surprisingly good. I only had one bite, but it had just the right amount of citrus sourness and also the perfect hint of sweetness. It was a very generous portion. I was sorry I didn't order it myself.

Instead, I got the Lab Kai, a spicy chicken salad. It was chicken with red chilies, lime juice, fish sauce, red and green onions, and cilantro.

Seeing red

The last time I got this, I asked them to tone down the heat. But I didn't get a chance this time because I had ordered ahead and forgot to mention it.

It was very tasty. And it burned. A lot. At a certain point, I picked up a menu to see what the hotness rating was for the dish. But my vision was badly blurred by tears. I had a temporary case of Lab Kai blindness.

On the Internet menu, the dish was rated for spiciness with two exclamation points, with three being the maximum. After my blindness had cleared, I saw on the inhouse menu that the Lab Kai was rated with only one chili pepper symbol out of three. I thought it deserved three.

At this point, I'll digress. I went back another time by myself to try a non-spicy dish. I had the Phad Sen Mi (165 CZK). It was described as Chinese rice noodles with vegetables and beef.

The beef, though no fancy cut, was tender and had a great, almost smoky flavor from the wok. The bowl also had white onions, green onions, carrots, bean sprouts, and fried egg. It was very nice, but had one issue. Too salty. I noticed it on the first bite. Then, I got used to it. Then, it was a bit too much for me at the end.

In our group outing, Major Dan ordered a dish with the highest heat rating on the menu, the Phad Khi Mao with beef (185 CZK). It had glass noodles, bamboo shoots, onions, Thai basil, red and green chilies, cilantro, and bean sprouts.The menu said it had green beans, but I didn't see those. They must have meant the sprouts, which weren't mentioned.

I took one bite. It tasted good. The flavor of the Thai basil stood out. And then they hit me. Those chilies. It was so spicy, it instantly brought on several hiccups. And I never get hiccups.

The Major is no Thai food prude. He is a man who travels far and wide, to Thailand and beyond, seeking out the sharp thrill of spice. A Vasco Da Gama of the modern age.

And after a few bites of his dinner, he damn near cried. His eyes were rimmed with red. I actually thought he would like this.

"This is the spiciest Thai food I've ever had," he said. "I had this same dish here last June, and it was nothing compared to this."

"Wow," I thought. "He's impressed."

"I can't finish this. It's just too hot."

I was shocked. I'd thought nothing could be too spicy for him. He'd eaten less than half. And he was not happy about it. There were just way too many chilies in there. There were big slices, but it also had finely chopped red ones, seeds and all, well-mixed in. There was no avoiding them.

When the waitress came by, he handed her the nearly full bowl and told her it was too hot to eat. He wouldn't even take it home. She just shrugged her shoulders.

We did what we could to cool the fire with half-liters of Pilsner Urquell (45 CZK each). But they only offered temporary respite. The pain dissipated as long as I was sipping the stuff. But the moment I stopped, the pain came roaring back.

It was not subsiding. The roof of my mouth felt like it had burned off. I needed to take further palliative measures.

I looked over at the dessert case. There was a last, lonely slice of cheese cake. I tend not to order the last piece of a cake out of concern for its freshness.

There was something called a nougat cake, which intrigued me. It looked homemade.But, in the end, I got the Black Forest cake. It was a very fudgy version. In the first few bites, there was no cherry, but as I got deeper into it, there were a few under the thick, mousse-like filling. It was covered with quality chocolate shavings.Not a classic iteration, but pretty good.

And best of all, it was the perfect antidote to the chilies. The smooth chocolate and whipped cream quickly quelled the fire, and I could wipe away my tears.

Love hurts. Yet, we are all drawn into its flames.

When it all goes up in smoke, you need time before you can muster the courage to try again.

Whether you got burned by Brad Pitt or Lab Kai.

Modrý Zub Noodle Bar
Jindřišská 5
Prague 1
Tel. (+420) 222 212 622

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Anonymous said...

This restaurant is right around the corner from work for me. Quite a few of the ex pats from work eat there often. My favorite are the Blue tooth noodle and if a spicy mood the Phad Sam Sen. I agree about the saltyness however the other flavors are usually strong as well but it takes a good couple liters of water in the afternoon to take the edge off the thirst.

Anonymous said...

hmmm, saltiness, or MSG?

Anonymous said...

You're right about the Lab Kai. It's good, but way way hot. Worthy of more than one chilli. And I had thought that I was just being a pussy!

Western Mass Mama said...

I was really looking forward to trying this place. I went today and tried to order the Phad Khi Mao with beef, which looked good in your picture, and asked them to tone down the heat. They said the could either make it the normal way, or not spicy at all and then I could just use the Sriracha on the table to spice it up. So instead we had the Phad Sam Sean. It was okay, it was decently spicy but pretty flavorless, aside from the heat, which I found a shame since I'm a New Yorker and have experienced great flavorful Thai food (even at Noi, which was way better than this place). We also had the spring rolls, both with meat and vegetables, and they were relatively okay... nothing to write home about. I'd rather go to Noi next time I have a Thai hankering.

Anonymous said...

I returned to Modry Zub Friday and ordered the three-pepper ranked Phad Khi Mao. The waitress tried to talk me out of it! I told her I would just order more beer if it were too hot and she said, "Or, you could just order something else."

I didn't budge. It had a lot of heat initially, but it was manageable. I realized that they only sprinkle the heat on top and, once you dig into the noodles a bit, the heat is much milder.

Anonymous said...

I go to Modry Zub a couple times a year because I love Thai food. Unfortunately, Modry Zub is too spicy, and I love spicy food.

Every time I go my stomach is completely destroyed for two days. Maybe it's massive amount of red chilis (I WAS ASKED DO YOU WANT SPICY? I SAID NO), or maybe is the MSG. I don't know, but what I do know is that I won't be going to Modry Zub anymore.

It's so spicy you can't even taste the flavors of the other food. It was so spicy I had to order a second bowl of rice, which they charge me 35 CZK for...

brandeye said...

i'm loving reading your blog. we will be in prague next week, can't wait!!!

Liz said...

My husband and I visited Modry Zub Noodle Bar tonight for my birthday and it was incredibly disappointing. We had the Phad Ki Mao and Phad Sam Sean, which were both utterly flavorless except for the spiciness. We had to order wedges of lime from the bar to make them palatable. I don't think I've ever been as disappointed by Thai food as I was tonight. It was definitely spicy enough, but that was all it was. It reminded me of a hotter version of the bland "Thai style" noodles you can get at the cheap fast food Chinese place near where I work, which is not good when it costs 3x as much. The chicken from our satay was bland and on the cool side too.

The service was pretty bad too. 20 minutes before the waitress even came to take our drink order, and she never came back to check on us after dropping off the food. Water was a surprising 40CZK for a .33L bottle as well. We won't be going back.