“I’ll take it hot.”

The server looked at me a little sideways. “It’s really hot,” she said, doubting my intentions.

I’d just ordered the drunken noodles with pork at US Thai Cafe in Edgewater when the waitress and I began this little dance. I appreciated her concern, but I thought I could handle the heat—I grew up eating, and enjoying, spicy Mexican and Asian dishes.

“Have you been here before?” she asked. I began to wonder if she might not allow me to order this particular dish, this particular way.

“Yes I have,” I replied.

“Ooooookay,” she said, and then spun around and headed off to place the order.

Let’s get this out of the way: You don’t go to US Thai for the service (though the server’s care was charming), and you don’t go for the decor, complete with chipped paint on the walls (and at least one trophy), sticky plastic tablecloths, and vinyl-covered chairs.

What you do go for is chef Aung Kyaw’s expertly spiced, reasonably priced street cuisine, which is arguably the best Thai in greater Denver. Kyaw was born in Myanmar but grew up in Thailand, and he’s nailed the complex alchemy of weaving together all of those rich southeast Asian flavors: the sweetness of coconut milk, the tang of curry, the fire of chiles.

The masman curry, with tender chicken, soft potato chunks, and savory onions—served with aromatic jasmine rice—was an explosion of flavors: sweet, savory, spicy. (Pair any of the curries—or any dish here, really—with the earthy and sweet Thai iced tea.) The hefty spring rolls were refreshing with their mint and thick peanut sauce, and served as a nice foil to the spicier dishes. The pork dumplings, on the other hand, were dense and chewy and could have been executed with a bit more finesse.

As for the “hot” drunken noodles: They were spicy, yes, but not so spicy as to force me to suck on ice cubes; not so spicy as to mask the fantastic flavors of the rice noodles, pork, basil, and peas. I’ll order it again, not only because the dish is flawless and dining here is inexpensive (lunch runs $20 for two), but also because I’ll get to hear the server discourage me from ordering it yet again. 5228 W. 25th Ave., Edgewater, 303-233-3345, www.usthaicafe.com.

This article was originally published in 5280 October 2009.
Geoff Van Dyke
Geoff Van Dyke
Geoff Van Dyke is the editorial director of 5280 Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffVanDyke