It's the Frodo's ring of food reviewers: The “secret,” non-English menu, be it in Mandarin or urdu. In this week's “Eat” review for SF Weekly, restaurant critic Jonathan Kauffman turns all Gollum, finding ― and with the help of translators, cracking ― the all-Thai menu at Chabaa in the Outer Sunset. Kauffman single-mindedly probes the menu's Isaan offerings:
In the realm of the pungent is Chabaa's gaeng som, “orange curry,” a simple market-stall stew soured with tamarind and tomato, sweetened with palm sugar, and thickened and intensified with pounded, salted fish…. The funk of the gaeng som ― savory rather than foetid ― rolled out of our tureen when [the server] lifted the lid; the flavor was at once brash and hypnotic, and when my translator lifted a spoonful to his mouth, he shuddered and smiled, nostalgia gratified.