Somewhat high on my pre-baby to-do list this month was up hit up what is seemingly the ‘buzziest’ new place to eat in Ann Arbor this summer: Katoi.
This Thai eatery got its start as a successful Detroit food truck, and the owners are currently in the process of expanding into a brick and mortar restaurant in Detroit. Meanwhile, they opened a pop-up restaurant (“Katoi In Exile”) in the former Jerusalem Garden space on S Fifth Avenue in Ann Arbor for a few days and limited blocks of time each week. They’ve since expanded their hours and I’ve heard they’re hear to stay in Ann Arbor. (Please do stay!)
Anticipating possible crowds last Saturday evening, we popped in for dinner right at 5:00 PM, when they opened. We didn’t have trouble getting table inside (I think most people were dining outside.)
The menu changes daily and the huz and I selected four dishes to share for dinner. First we received the Grilled Hen, consisting of five pieces of succulent, juicy, tender hen served with some really wonderful sweet chili sauce on the side that was perfect for balancing the spicy heat that seasoned the hen. The skin was all crispy and chargrilled and delicious.
Next we had the Blistered Corn Salad, served atop an avocado crema, and topped with crispy onions and Thai basil leaves. This was pretty good but probably my least favorite of the four dishes I tried. I found the avocado crema a bit lackluster and thought it should be thicker. Yet that didn’t stop us from devouring all of it.
Third, we had Som Tam Thai with a side of sticky rice.
I was not familiar with Som Tam Thai prior to my visit, but from Wikipedia I learned,
“Green papaya salad is a spicy salad made from shredded unripe papaya. It is of Lao origin but it is also eaten throughout Southeast Asia… Som tam, the Thai variation, was listed at number 46 on World’s 50 most delicious foods compiled by CNN Go in 2011.”
Our served warned us that this dish had a fair bit of heat to it, but we told her to bring it on. I actually didn’t find it very hot – maybe there were fewer chilies in our serving. This dish packed a ton of flavor though – mildly sweet with a savory fish sauce umami, crunchy long beans and peanuts, and sweet little bursts of ripe grape tomatoes. Loved it! It was especially fantastic served atop the sticky rice.
Lastly we shared a Banh Mi sandwich made with smoked ham.
This was one of the best Banh Mis I’ve had. It was pretty much perfect. Every bite made me swoon.
I still can’t get over how much flavor Katoi packs into each of their dishes. What an exciting addition to the Ann Arbor food scene. I want to go back every day and order one of everything on the menu!
PS – Still no baby boy. Tomorrow is my due date. We are ready as soon as he decides to make his grand entrance!
KATOI ANN ARBOR
307 S FIFTH AVE