Songkran Thai in Uptown Park is named after the Thai festival that celebrates the new year in Thailand and other countries that go by the Buddhist calendar. I was so impressed at the bites of spicy green curry that chef Junnajet "Jett" Hurapan and his staff served at the recent Menu of Menus event that a visit certainly seemed in order. There’s definitely something to celebrate here.
Thai food isn't often identified with its sausages, but there's a lot to be said for the Sai Krok Isan, which is made from pork and sweet rice. It’s accented with roasted peanuts, cilantro and slivers of ginger. There were little slices of red Thai pepper strewn about as well, just daring you to spear them up for a punch of heat.
“Heavenly Beef" is also known as “Thai beef jerky.” Dense and coated in salt, coriander, cumin and just a touch of sugar, it bares only the slightest resemblance to what most Texans think of as beef jerky. The slices are chewy-tender—more moist and steak-like. There are waves of sriracha on the plate in case you want your beef to have some extra punch.
Saw leaf is an herb most often seen in Houston on the garnish plates of better pho restaurants, but it is rare to find a dish of any cuisine here that actually incorporates it. Hurapan uses it in the Larb Ta Lay, a seafood dish of shrimp, PEI mussels and squid, and crispy shallots accented with freshly-squeezed lime juice. The shrimp were at the perfect stage where they’d been cooked just until pale white, leaving them firm and moist. The grainy white bits throughout the dish are ground, toasted rice and the texture is surprisingly pleasing.
There are plenty of delightful beef dishes to choose from here, like the melt-in-your-mouth Neua Siam. Hurrapan braises Wagyu short ribs for three hours, garnishes it with saw leaf, basil green onions and serves “Angry Dip” alongside. It’s vinaigrette with lime juice and chili. There’s no fish sauce to temper it—it’s a spice of tart, bracing swagger and I found myself unable to stay away. It’s a welcome foil for the succulent fattiness of the short ribs.
Songkran is unique among Thai restaurants in that they keep a full-time sommelier on staff. Danny Sanchez is a Certified Sommelier, which means he’s passed some of the rigorous tests of the respected Court of Master Sommeliers organization.
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Hurapan says that Thailand has no wine industry of its own, so wines from other countries are used unabashedly here. With the lack of regional favoritism, wines are paired strictly on the basis of their flavor profiles—a system that opens up a lot of opportunities.
Spicy Thai food works wonderfully well with pairings like demi-sec Rieslings and Vouvray. For our meal, Sanchez pulled out a bottle of 2013 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend—a economical choice flexible enough to see us through the mean.
Songkran even has a well-chosen selection of dessert wines. Some are remarkably good values as well, such as the Dolce Late Harvest made with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion grapes allowed to dry and ferment on the vine. It’s the same process used in France for Sauternes, but it’s domestic. Since it comes from Napa instead of Bordeaux, it’s a fraction of the price.
Songkran Thai’s food is a welcome departure from the touristy renditions found in most Houston neighborhoods. The food here is elegant, yet unfussy. It’s a welcome dive into unfamiliar territory for many Houstonians—an eye-opening excursion that should be taken.