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A Thai Newcomer with Potential in Heart of Chicago

Situated blocks outside of Pilsen’s gentrifying core, Gin Khao Eat Rice serves belly-filling food from a shoebox storefront.

Nam prik noom and tod mun pla   Photo: Jeff Marini

Ghin Khao Eat Rice seems less a full-fledged restaurant than a brick-and-mortar food truck. The menu, as slim as a flier, focuses on the few Thai plate lunches and shareable snacks the shoebox kitchen can muster. The dining room, small and windowless, has been decked out with a neon-bright mural. You feel like you’re eating in a futuristic manga comic, one where Thai long-tail boats prowl Lake Michigan.

Owner Nova Sasi grew up in a Chicago restaurant family — his parents owned Lanna Thai in Edgewater — and, after attending culinary school, cooked in spots such as Fat Rice and Embeya. He opened his modest solo venture just a few blocks outside of Pilsen, far enough away from the neighborhood’s gentrifying core that he had to paint a clarifying sign on the front window: “Authentica comida thailandesa.”

Indeed, my favorite memory of the meal is watching Sasi explain the grilled pork shoulder plate ($10) to an older Latino gentleman, who seemed to relish every bite. What’s not to love? Grill-streaked meat, fluffy rice, papaya salad, and a chili-shivved sweet and tangy jaew sauce. Sasi cooks with his family’s northern Thai perspective, so he serves nam prik noom ($7), a dragon-breath chili dip with raw vegetables, and the springy, curry-scented fried fish cakes called tod mun pla ($6).

I don’t want to oversell this restaurant beyond what it currently is: a satisfying option for a belly-filling meal when you’re in the area. But I’ll be back with a six-pack, waiting to see what Sasi can cook when he spreads his wings just a little further.

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