Chef Benchawan Jabthong Painter has made it to the big time, winning the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Chef: Texas in June 2023. As a happy result, she has left behind her tiny original Houston eatery and moved into a new space in EaDo (that’s east of downtown) with husband–biz partner Graham Painter. It’s an unassuming industrial room brightened up with pots of ivy and green and pink paint; booth, table, and bar seating is available. One thing you should be aware of —if Thai food is not in your normal rotation—is that dishes are aggressively spicy, so request “mild” to gauge your tolerance level. Our beginning was perfectly savory, featuring shiitake-pork dumplings that were so delicate (yet also so meaty) that we longed for more. The slow chile burn began to set in with the curry corn fritters and continued with the soulful vegetable massaman curry (which included bonus chunks of tofu). Should you want meat, a chicken version is also available. Unfortunately, both chicken and noodles were scant in the Drunken Noodles aswim in a spicy onion and bell pepper sauce. Looking back, we would give top marks of the evening to the shrimp fried rice, featuring tender, juicy whole shellfish and fresh garnishes of cucumber and lime. Actually, we wish more menu items had those fresh garnishes and bright accents. Cool off with mango sticky rice.
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Street to Kitchen
Thai food from the 2023 winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Texas.