Ruan Thai is the friend you have known for years and don’t see nearly as much as you used to, or would like to, but on those increasingly rare occasions when you get together, it is like no time has passed, conversation is easy and even the silences are comfortable because you know each other so well. You start to wonder why you don’t see each other more often — and then you remember Nava Thai.
When we moved to Wheaton in 2002, Ruan (11407 Amherst) was our original go-to restaurant — not just for Thai, but for anything. It was love at first curry. While Nava has displaced Ruan as our BFF over the years, we still feel a strong connection to Ruan, and continue to enjoy their food. Overall, Nava is better, but Ruan is still really good, and even superior in certain ways, so we try to maximize those advantages when we eat there.
Ruan’s som tum (papaya salad) is mostly papaya — Nava’s mix is heavier on tomatoes, beans, dried shrimp — but seems as spicy and flavorful as any other version I have had. Their stir-fried crispy duck (kaprow!) is not quite as amazing as at Nava or Dusit, and has too many bell peppers in the mix, but still worth ordering.
Some actual advantages: pad prik khing is a wonderful balance of sauce-beans-meat, the sauce has good kick but not too much, and the green beans really snap; it is consistently the best edition of the dish I’ve had anywhere. Beef mussamun curry is a little too sweet but still good, and you can’t even get mussamun at many Thai restaurants; Nava’s version is superior but only rarely available, as a special. Nava also almost never has mango sticky rice, but Ruan usually does, and of usually high quality, as was the case tonight, which makes Mrs. Me deliriously happy, which makes us all happy.
Tomorrow I will be breakfasting and lunching on leftovers. Yes I said breakfasting. Probably the duck, but we’ll see. Holy basil I love Thai food.