3859 Refugee Rd.
Open: 7 days/wk, 11am – 9pm
With a name like ‘Erawan’, it has to be good. Or so went our thinking – Erawan is the name of a minor shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, and to saddle a restaurant with what amounts to a near-unpronounceable name for english speakers that relates to an almost unknown location to anyone outside of Thailand is to show a genuine fidelity to origin. We couldn’t help but expect that that would manifest itself in the food.
This sense was confirmed when our thoroughly accommodating and knowledgeable server suggested that our meals would be best accompanied by sticky rice – a glutinous rice that is indeed sticky, with larger grains and a slightly nuttier flavor. Thais, particularly in the northern region of Isaan, use it much like Ethiopians use injera bread – in lieu of utensils, they grab a ball of it and use it to pinch morsels from dishes. You don’t see this option very often around here.
The Isaan influence makes sense – Erawan is run by a Thai and a Lao, and Lao cooking is often very similar to Isaan style cuisine. And, as Laos is also influenced by neighboring Vietnam, you’ll also find pho here (which, if Yelp reviews are anything to go by, is supposed to be quite good).
But, we came for Thai, and Thai is what we had. Here’s how it went down:
First we tried the beef jerky appetizer. We’ve eaten this at Thai restaurants on numerous occasions previously, been a bit confused by the name (it doesn’t seem like jerky!), and finally on this visit got some answers from our server: it’s a marinated beef that has been left to rest and drain for around 3 hours and then deep-fried. So, not jerky as we know it, and certainly not health food, but absolutely delicious with a bit of sweetness, strong lemongrass notes, a slight crispness, and an overt beefy flavor. It was gone in no time flat.
Next came the papaya salad with salty crab. We asked for maximum spicy heat (which is the norm for this dish), and we got it. We also got crunchy shredded green papaya in a citrusy sauce with deep fish sauce flavor, studded with peanuts, garlic, bits of crab, and intimidatingly large flecks of chili. We enjoyed it very much, were impressed by the authenticity, and I’ll just end this sentence by observing that the fish sauce is both potent in aroma and flavor and therefore may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But make no mistake, you’re getting the real deal here.
The yum nuea arrived next. Essentially a cold beef salad with a sauce similar to the papaya salad, it demonstrated the wide range of flavors – sweet, salty, and sour – that the dish is known for. Unfortunately, the beef itself was surprisingly gristly. Perhaps a bit too authentic in that respect?
As we dug into the pad gar pow, the first person to speak simply said, “oh, yeah.” At Erawan the choice of protein is yours, and we ordered ours with ground pork, which was completed with plenty of sweet basil, chili, and garlic sauce. Again, the execution was dead-on, and thoroughly enjoyed. This is one of the big flavored Thai dishes that is easily accessible even in its most unadulterated form.
Finally, we tried the pad see ew, which was… incongruously odd, both for better and worse. On the plus side, it had a deeply meaty flavor that, while distinctly unlike any other pad see ew we’ve tried, was nonetheless roundly enjoyed on its own merits. On the down side, the noodles were overcooked and yet lacked the dish’s signature ‘essence of pan’ (the sootiness that comes from residual bits of prior dishes).
But never mind that last dish. We’re excited about this place, and can’t wait to try more. As Erawan has just recently opened, the occasional misstep is understandable. Prices were very reasonable, with apps ranging from $3.25 – $7.00, and meals from $7.00 – $13.00 (with most under $10.00). Service was exceptional.
This makes what – the 3rd Thai restaurant in that space? I saw that the sign had changed the last time I drove down Refugee. Hope this one sticks around – looks/sounds great!
From what I can recall, it’s the second Thai restaurant. There was a Vietnamese place there between Pad Thai’s time and Erawan. Can’t speak to anything before Pad Thai.
Tried this on Sunday and it was phenomenal! The beef jerkey was awesome, as were the steam dumplings. I had a eggplant dish with chicken that was tremendously flavorful and was chocked full of generously sized mushrooms, super delicious!
Was a nice change from dimly lit Bangkok as well. Very bright and inviting atmosphere.
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The Tom Ka here is absolutely the best that I have had in Columbus. I am a huge fan of Thai and Vietnamese food and have tried almost every one in town. Erawan’s food is just amazing. It’s jumped to the top of my list of favorite places to eat.
I just discovered Erawan Thai recently, and I’m wowed by the place! The Tom Kha Gai soup is the best I’ve found (and I’ve looked hard). Likewise, the Holy Basil sauce (which I enjoyed with chicken) was to die for. In general their entrees are generous portions that could nearly satisfy two.
The spring rolls with shrimp are of the Vietnamese sort, with glass noodles and a clear wrapper, served chilled — but these are gigantic! The Erawan’s light sweet/sour dipping sauce complements them better than the hoisin and peanut sauces I’m used to, really bringing out the flavors – every chew was a taste sensation.
How does it compare to Bangkok since it right down the street?
It compares well.
It’s probably equally authentic, but focuses on dishes from a different region of Thailand.
“Lao cooking is often very similar to Isaan style cuisine”. Actually, it is the foods in Isaan that are similar or identical to Lao cooking because Isaan used to be a part of Laos. Therefore, Isaan was and still is influenced by Laos. When talking about Lao cuisine, why mention Isaan since it is Lao cuisine that influenced Isaan? However, when talking about Isaan, it makes sense to bring up Laos and Lao cuisine since Isaan’s culinary history came from Laos. As for the pho noodle soup, you’re right that pho is the name used by Vietnam, but the Lao noodle dish has its own name so please don’t get them mixed up. Yes, the name for the soup sound the same in both Laos and Vietnam because the name came from French as both countries used to be French colonies, but Laos and Vietnam have different languages so the name is spelled differently from one another. Besides, both Laos and Vietnam share their borders with China where noodle soups are very plentiful so you should not assume that the Lao noodle soup came from Vietnam. That would be like assuming Vietnamese noodle soups came from Laos just because Vietnam has similar noodle soups as the ones in Laos.
““Lao cooking is often very similar to Isaan style cuisine”. Actually, it is the foods in Isaan that are similar or identical to Lao cooking because Isaan used to be a part of Laos.”
I see no problem with what was said – it was never implied that the original influence came from one side of the Mekong or the other, it just says they’re similar. Which, they are.
“Yes, the name for the soup sound the same in both Laos and Vietnam because the name came from French as both countries used to be French colonies, but Laos and Vietnam have different languages so the name is spelled differently from one another.”
Perhaps, but not on Erawan’s menu… which is what was being described. Also, see here.
“Besides, both Laos and Vietnam share their borders with China where noodle soups are very plentiful so you should not assume that the Lao noodle soup came from Vietnam.”
So French colonialism facilitated crossovers between the languages, but not the cuisines?
had an excellent meal we tried to som tom ( we missed the more southern additions of shrimp and long beans) and it was excellent, we tried the red curry vegetable with and the traditional tom yom, the cook is terrific yes issan influences. service helpful and delightful son and mother team. the prices were definitely on the high or expensive side but well worth it. the specials were clearly specially priced at twelve dollars, not inexpensive in my book but as i said excellent flavors abundant vegetables and clearly a deft hand. it gets many stars from my palate. . having lived and taught in Bangkok for many many years i would say this restaurant is very authentic and i would rate it higher than the Bangkok restaurant down the road…………..which is good but to my mind this one is simply better, besides less televisions is a relief…………………………………………
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we really enjoyed the restaurant despite the one serious mishap of breading on the shrimp, chicken and fish. it was thick as if a winter coat was being put on a delicate flower. This was actually a pretty serious gaffe as Thai food and Laotian food would not have the same breading as Kentucky fried chicken which it duplicated exactly.. the rest of the dishes tasted were delicious except for the flat noodles which were burned along with the chicken for the dish. everything else was wonderful the Thai salads and flavors were duplicated to perfection. I too lived and taught in Bangkok for many many years and i was delighted to find the tradition is perpetuated. If someone would explain to the Laotian cook about a more delicate batter the appreciation would be unbounded. I did not find the influence of Issan food but perhaps that is because of the dishes we ordered. We went as a group for lunch and no Thai servers were in sight and the very helpful waitress did not seem to know the name of things, but she worked very hard with a full house at lunch time. the gratuity that was added to the bill was minimal. and we would return despite the caveat of breading and burned. Every cook has a good and bad day. Sawadee kah.
I used to think of Erawan and Bangkok as 1A & 1B. After my meal the other day, no longer. The couple dishes I tried were “meh”. No black fungus mushroom in the vegetable egg rolls. The tom yum soup and pad thai were lacking some flavor, in particular, the nuance of all the elements that made them a standout from 2011-2015.