Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune
Many chefs work themselves into a lather talking about Thai food. The type of Thai cooking they describe is one level up from the obvious — pad thai, pad see ew — and involves shrimp paste, fish sauce or fermented sausage, ingredients that might clear a room if left unattended. And these chefs can't get enough of it. It's the funky stuff that accomplishes that balancing act of hot, salty, sour and sweet.
For these chefs, Andy Thai Kitchen is worthy of a pilgrimage. Its chef, Andy Aroonrasameruang, doesn't play it safe for Chicago palates. A refusal to tone down dishes was one reason the longtime TAC Quick Thai chef left that restaurant in September to open Andy Thai Kitchen in Lakeview. What separates ATK from others of its ilk are the dishes unrecognizable to non-Thais: A tempura-fried green papaya salad, a fiery seafood tom sab stew served in a clay pot, a deconstructed shrimp paste-fried rice with sweet pork and eggs. The type of food coming out of Andy's kitchen makes you nod in the affirmative and feverishly pant at the same time.
Andy Thai Kitchen, 946 W. Wellington Ave., Chicago; 773-549-7821
— Kevin Pang