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Restaurant review: Thai curry in Mount Currie

Barn Nork

Where: 2021 Portage Road, Mount Currie,

When: Dinner, Thursday to Monday

Info: barnnork.com. 604-894-6093

I’m reading my husband’s mind. “OK!” he’s saying but I know he means ‘No way.’ He doesn’t like my apres-hike suggestion of dinner at a Thai restaurant in Mount Currie. And who could blame him? In Mount Currie restaurants are near non-existent, let alone a Thai one, and a good one at that! Well, he’d be changing his tune.

After a cold beer at The Beer Farmers, a Pemberton brewery which grows its own hops and barley, we called Barn Nork Thai restaurant. It was a Monday and we expected we’d name our time. “We have a table at 5 o’clock and at 8 o’clock,” a cheery voice informed us.

Barn Nork, we discovered, isn’t just super popular with Pemberton and Mount Currie locals, tourists from Whistler make the trek out.

At this low key and unpretentious spot, a celebrity could dine without fuss. It happened to Kate Winslet and family a couple of years ago. Restaurant staff only found out when a diner informed them the next day.

“We’re a pretty humble little spot,” says manager Judith Thompson. “We’re just surprised and grateful every day that the parking lot is full at 4:30.” The restaurant opens at 5 p.m.

We grabbed the 5 p.m. reservation knowing we’d be too hungry for civility by 8 p.m.

So what’s the odyssey story behind Barn Nork owners Janice Sriwantan and Jay Nutamarn? They hail from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand but met in Vancouver where Sriwantan attended Vancouver Community College’s culinary program after apprenticing and working at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. Nutamarn trained in Thailand and was working in a Thai restaurant in Vancouver when they met and fell in love. They love the countryside. That’s just what Barn Nork means in Thai and the fact that it’s in a barnlike building is happenstance.

“We saw no Thai food in the area and we found this location. It was so remote everyone said there’s no way. So many people say that,” says Sriwantan. People, you were wrong —  Barn Nork is going strong into its third year.

The couple co-chef in the kitchen and their food is better than many of the Thai restaurants in Vancouver. With a light touch they master the tricky art of balancing sour, sweet, salty and spicy with aromatics coming in to assist.

Spiced chicken wings with Sriracha from Barn Nork. Photo: Mia Stainsby Mia Stainsby / PNG

We started with Thai spiced chicken wings with a house Sriracha which were nicely fried with a crisp, lightly battered skin. I love a good pad Thai that’s not balled up and sweet (with ketchup in some cases) and it was very good here with loose noodles and pieces of prawns, chicken, and tofu. Instead of chopped peanuts, there were hazelnuts.

Northeastern pork salad featured minced pork with shallots and a side of alert, fresh greens. For the chili lime dressing, the chefs roast and chop sticky rice for texture and add aromatics like lemon grass, lime leaf, galangal. It’s mixed in a mortar and pestle to extract oils and flavour.

The green curry looked mild with a very light sauce (too watery for my taste) but it had a kick punching through the murmur of fish sauce, palm sugar and curry paste flavours.

I didn’t try it but Sriwantan says the beef massaman curry is a popular dish with regulars. The beef shanks, from 63 Acres — no hormones, steroids, grass-fed, grain-finished — are braise-roasted for five hours.

Seafood, she says, is Ocean Wise and they try to support local Pemberton farmers as much as possible. One farm grows their Thai basil in the summer.

Crab fried rice from Barn Nork. Photo: Mia Stainsby Mia Stainsby / PNG

A crab-fried rice was lightly fluffed and I was happy to see real crab in it. It’s blue swimming crab from the Philippines and according to Thompson, it’s an effort to procure it. The rice was lightly flavoured with chili fish sauce.

In Thailand, I’m addicted to sticky rice with the country’s beautiful mangoes so guess what I ordered for dessert. Only it came with mango sorbet. When fresh mangoes don’t pass their Thai expectation, they make a sorbet, fierce with mango. I was happy.

Sticky rice with mango sorbet from Barn Nork. Photo: Mia Stainsby Mia Stainsby / PNG

The next time, I’ll be ordering the deep-fried cod in tri-flavoured sauce and the gai lan with crispy pork belly after hearing Sriwantan’s descriptions.

For drinks, an all-Okanagan wine list focuses on aromatic whites, suitable for spicy foods. Bottles and bombers of B.C. craft beer are also available including those from just down the road at Pemberton Brewing Co. and The Beer Farmers. There’s a solid selection of non-alcoholic drinks as well.

The front of house is really well run thanks to Thompson, who’s had years of experience in the industry. “I have a long history in restaurant management, ownership, catering and events,” she says. ”I started waitressing when I was 12 years old.”

Should you be in the Pemberton area, recreating, make Barn Nork your end-of-day payoff!

mia.stainsby@shaw.ca

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