Today, Stougaard will eat her 148th, 149th and 150th dishes from among the restaurant's about 300 mostly southern Thai specialties — the halfway point toward her goal of working her way through the entire menu, curry by curry, pad see ew by pad Thai, miang khun shrimp by yala tiger prawn.
"I'm tying my hair back to get ready," she says, getting down to business. She pulls out her trusty Leica D-Lux 4 camera, which she has used to document via Flickr every Jitlada dish she has eaten, and takes a photo of the plate in front of her — deep-fried soft-shell crab in a dry curry with pumpkin. "OK, let's eat."
Stougaard, an infectiously perky 46-year-old with a white-bright smile, doesn't have to ask before a server brings to the table her preferred beverage — Singha beer. When she wants an extra glass of water, she dashes to the waiters' station and pours it herself. And when customers walk in but the harried staff is too busy to notice, Stougaard will get up, seat them at a table and start recommending dishes.
Wow, I wish True Thai had more customers like Stougaard, although I'm not sure I like the idea of customers bussing their own tables and seating other customers!
I was also impressed that the Jitlada Restaurant has 300 items on their menu, so I tried to find an online copy of it. Their website was not helpful (score 1 for True Thai!), and Menupages.com's Jitlada menu only showed less than 120 dishes. True Thai's menu has 80 items on it, so 120 did not sound like too many to me.
That got me to thinking, maybe they count Chicken Satay as one dish, and Pork Satay as another? If you approach True Thai's menu that way, we have 300 dishes you can order!
But my friend did some more online detective work and found Jitlada's actual online menu. It is a very big menu and they serve some Thai dishes I have never eaten except in Thailand. True, Los Angeles is much closer to Thailand than Minneapolis is, and I'm sure it helps that there are more Thai in L.A. than the rest of the U.S. put together. It also helps that it's warm in southern California. Their farmers can grow things Minnesotans can only grow in heated greenhouses.
How many different True Thai menu items have you ordered? And no, we do not serve kaeng phuung plaa kun sap (fish kidney curry), but if you ask nicely, we will make some special just for you.