Turns out, I can get a tad obsessive about a restaurant I like. Since getting back from my trip home, I've been to Thai Esane more than I want to admit and I've practiced a lot of restraint and not posted every damn thing I've eaten there on Instagram but trust me when I say I've been there a lot. Like, a LOT a lot.
Is the food really that good? Yes. Yes it is. Frankly, it's what's helped me get over being homesick because it's all flavors that remind me of my part of the world. Eating at Thai Esane makes me very very happy.
Thai Esane (eh-sahn) is run by Nina Sayasack and her husband Tim. Nina's family also owns another favorite restaurant of mine, King Market out in Antioch. I'd mentioned King Market in a list of restaurants I love from a few years ago. Fun fact: to convince me to go the first time, all my friend Vivek (someone who's been there more than I have) had to say was "It's the same people who own King."
The menu is not as extensive as King Market's but that's about to change since customers are asking for some King Market favorites so don't be surprised if you go today and the menu gets updated and changes the next time you're there (Nina's a perfectionist that way).
My personal favorite that I first had at King Market is their kao piak (disguised by being listed as an unassuming "Chicken noodle soup") and I
encourage highly recommend insist you try it. It's not your average chicken noodle soup - the noodles are hand made right there, and the broth, ohhhhh the broth! It's so fragrant and flavorful with strips of pulled chicken that add a great texture and it's garnished with crispy garlic and (unless you hate it and you can request to not have any on there) loads of cilantro.
Dish from home it most reminds me of: bee tai mak
To be honest, all I really ever ordered when I went out to KM was the chicken noodle soup. I've had bites of their other dishes before like the larb (also good, get the pork). What I never had was the Malaysian noodles. A customer of theirs in Antioch is Malaysian so he told them what the noodles entailed - wide, flat rice noodles, a sweet black sauce, egg, bean sprouts, chinese sausage, fry it all up. This is another dish that, if you haven't ordered, you must get. If you like it spicy, order it hot. It's fantastic. Oh, slightly random but not really )especially if you follow me on Instagram): if there ever was a dish that could be called "Singapore noodles" on a menu anywhere, it'd be this dish because what it essentially is is something we call char kuay teow (fried wide rice noodles). It's like chicken rice - you can find it everywhere in Singapore and it is GOOD.
Here's what I recommend when you go to Thai Esane. To start, order the Esane Sausage. It's enough to share, or you can get it just for yourself as your entree since it comes with sticky rice and the worst that happens is you can take what you don't eat home and eat it for your next meal or breakfast. Also good to share for appetizers are their chicken wings, the deep fried pork short ribs and the chicken lemongrass skewer. Not into the deep-fried? First of all, why are you here? I'm kidding, of course - I'm really glad you're here in spite of my obsession with decadent dining choices. Anyway if fried meat isn't for you, try the papaya salad - it comes three ways: regular with lime, tomato or if you're feeling adventurous try it Esane style (fish sauce and shrimp paste and tamarind sauce so it's not for the faint of heart) or Thai style (fish sauce, crushed peanuts, lime juice, tomato) which is milder.
Then tackle the main dishes. The ones I've had and really like are the Mee Krob (crispy noodles in a thicker brown sauce), Kao Soy (wide, flat rice noodles in a tomato based sauce with minced meat and tons of veggies). I finally tried their pho and I will say, the broth they make for it is so light and tasty and I don't foresee myself going back to Charlotte Pike for pho as long as Thai Esane's around.
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Really, there's no one dish I recommend over anything else because it depends on what you want that day. Some days I crave comfort food so I go for the chicken noodle soup. Some days I want my ass kicked by spice so I get Malaysian noodles or drunken noodles. Other days, I'm homesick and I want something else I can order at home so I get the lad na or mee krob. One of the many things I love about Thai Esane is how every dish has a good amount of vegetables and ingredients and the veggies are fresh and crunchy. The servers know the dishes and will recommend their favorites.
The spice level is consistent and what's nice about spicy Asian food is that you can still taste what you're eating. Now, I'm not recommending you do this, because native Thai food can be super spicy but if you consider yourself a spice fiend, maybe order something "Nina hot." I think it's their "Shut the cluck up" so don't say I didn't warn you.
Thai Esane | 907 12th Ave South, Nashville 37216 | @ThaiEsane
M - Th: 11 - 9 | F-Sat: 11 - 10:30