Opart Thai offers some of the best traditional Isan-style Thai food in Chicago and to top it off, it’s BYOB. The Western Avenue location is the better of their two locations (the other near Chinatown). Although their menu is extensive and can be overwhelming, I’ve tried most items and I’ll limit this review to some of the highlights.
To start try, the moo ping, marinated and grilled pork tenderloin skewers, served with a light and well balanced citrus-sweet chili sauce. Add sticky rice for a more traditional experience. The standard fare of chicken satay and Thai shumay are also workth trying.
One of the best traditional Thai soups I’ve tried in the city is also available here, the tom yum pla, a hot and sour soup served with delicate sole fish and straw mushrooms in a remarkably flavorful and well-layered onion, lemongrass, lime juice and cilantro broth. Ask for it extra spicy, and it may well be the hottest dish that the city has to offer. One of the highlights of the menu are also Opart’s refreshing salads. Among the best is their classic som tum (not pictured), a raw papaya salad with thinly shredded papaya, lightly blanched green bean, tomato, crushed dry roasted peanut, dried shrimp and a classic hot and sour dressing. The yum kun chiang (also not pictured), a similar salad made with Chinese lap cheong, cucumbers and onion, is also worth a try.
For main courses, the simplest dishes reign supreme. Among the best are the pad prik king with shrimp (not pictured), which is flavored beautifully with sautéed ginger, curry paste and green beans.
The pad kra praow with ground pork is also simple and extraordinary with strong flavors of garlic, green peppers, basil and lime. Neither dish delivers on the heat the way the tom yum pla does, however, so ask for the chilis on the side if you prefer a more traditional level of heat. If you’re looking for curries, try anything with the green or red curry. Especially with the red curry, all the meat options work beautifully. On noodle dishes, skip the pad thai and go for something more adventurous. You’ll be rewarded. The bami moo daeng, thin stir fried egg noodles with delicious barbecue pork and served in a light onion broth is especially delicious. If you’re looking for something more complex, try the kuay tiew kee mao with shrimp. The dish is served with house made flat noodles, stir fried with basil leaves, Thai chilis, cabbage, Chinese broccoli and bean sprouts.
Thai desserts are uniquely flavored with light sweetness and balanced with a savory element. My favorite is the klouy boud chee, which is a lightly steamed banana in savory-sweet boiled coconut milk. Try it with a their iced coffee for added effect.
Opart Thai Restaurant
4658 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60625