Ya’ll love a popup.
I do. I fucking love popups. I think it’s just the sense of I guess, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)? There isn’t enough time in this world to have bad meals and I sometimes agonize over the fact that maybe… if I don’t attend these popups regularly, I’m missing out on a grand meal and that upsets me greatly.
Yoori, my lovely roommate and sister from another mother (quick plug to her IG: https://www.instagram.com/chloepurrfected), and Andy, Yoori’s special man friend and owner of Ahma’s Taiwanese in Midtown (quick plug to his FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/ahmasatl) were out a couple weeks ago drinking tea at Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Adventures on a date. Chef Parnass Savang came by to hand out some adverts for his upcoming popup the following weekend. Andy was bummed as his busiest days are the weekend and couldn’t ever make it to his popup but Yoori said maybe we could get him something to go when we end up visiting.
They came back home and Yoori said, “Unni, you know there’s a popup opening at Gato?” Without missing a beat I replied, “yeah, the Thai place right? I wanted to go try it out.” Yes, I’ve been stalking this popup for a hot minute. In my yesteryears of my early twenties I worked for the Surin restaurants and various other Thai restaurants around town. Chefs would always make us amazing lunch meals and would make it more as how they would make it at home versus the more Americanized versions that we sold within restaurants and thus started my love affair with Thai cuisine.
Yoori, Yuna, Erin, and myself popped in for dinner and we waited about 30 minutes prior to being seated at one of the booths at Gato. Be prepared to wait as seats are limited at Gato. Being the sensible and gluttonous individual I am, I suggested we order the entire menu.
The server suggested we order sticky rice with our Sai Ua Samun Phrai (will be referred to as “sausage lettuce wrap” from here) and we ordered two of those with three young coconut waters.
This dish was probably one of the biggest stand-outs to me. Simple yet with varying textures and flavors. The herbal pork sausage seems to be made in-house. The sausage is juicy, sweet, and the herbs don’t overpower the sausage. You can either create rice balls with the sticky rice or you can make a lettuce wrap with all of the above ingredients. There’s a crunch from the pork rinds, crunch from the little gem lettuce and cilantro, sticky rice to soak up the fat from the sausage and seep in the delicate tomato lemongrass sauce.
The tomato lemongrass sauce was probably one of the most brilliant items within this dish. In order to create umami without fish sauce that many westerners are offput by, Chef Savang circumnavigated this by blending flavors that would emulate the flavors without utilizing fish sauce. Chef Savang, if you sell this sauce in a bottle, I’d buy at least a few bottles.
The above photo is of the Yam Het a warm salad made with herbs, fried shallots, mushrooms, lemongrass, and bits of coconut. Yoori said this was probably her favorite. This is another dish that showcases the fresh local ingredients that are in season. The earthiness of the mushrooms blends with the freshness of the herbs and the cutting flavor of the shallots gives this dish depth and dimension. Coconut was too much in the background to be noted but I think it could do without the coconut or the coconut should be more in shaved slices like large pieces of Parmesan on top of a Caesar salad rather than shredded. I believe the light dressing was probably lime cooked off with the shallots and maybe some fish sauce? Don’t quote me on it. It’s a technique used across many warm Thai salads and it’s what I remember tasting.
Nam Prik Plao refers to the chili jam that goes in this dish. Nam Prik Plao normally has chilies, garlic, shallots, and some form of seafood like tom yum paste or dried shrimp. The jam is cooked down with palm sugar, fish sauce, and tamarind paste. I personally have had this dish with mostly green beans and a protein but never had it with asparagus until now. We didn’t get this dish with trout roe and I really really regret that we didn’t. I think the saltiness and the burst of flavors from the roe would’ve added onto the dish. We all really liked this dish but it is the most flavorful and can taint the flavors of other dishes. I would say save this dish for last or use a palate cleanser inbetween dishes while eating this.
Geng Deng Muu Grop is a red curry chili paste with pork belly. This dish could seriously use some work. The red curry paste was delightful but the pork belly itself while crispy didn’t feel like it was integrated with the red curry. The pork belly felt as if it was an after thought added to this dish. Also, either the pineapple in this dish was canned or was cooked for too long and didn’t impart any sweet and tart in a subtle way, rather it was too in your face for anyone’s liking. The pork broth whilst excellent palate cleanser, should’ve been served with the nam prik plao instead.
Pla nung manao is a traditional steamed fish recipe where the cavity of the fish is filled with lemongrass and then steamed. The fish was good but I felt like it left something to be desired. Yes, steamed fish normally has delicate texture but the skin itself is absolutely inedible. Yoori, whose family was pescatarian for number of years, separated the fish into filets for us (I’m awful at this so it was very much welcomed). The inner flesh of the fish was a bit understated and underseasoned. I had to scoop much of the broth on top to get the broth on top. Most of this type of fish has scoring on the skin to soak up all the sauce that you’re pouring on top after steaming. The trout did not. I also felt like there was a touch too much lime within the sauce which distracted me from the rest of the sauce. I kept eating it but something felt off. I think it may also because I don’t particularly enjoy freshwater fish. This dish was ok in my mind. I think this could definitely use some work.
Overall, Market is a welcomed addition in the pop-up scene. I think Chef Savang is still working things out within the restaurant and I cannot wait to go back to eat more dishes.
Market is located at Gato located at 1660 McLendon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307 and is open from Friday to Sunday from 6pm to 10pm. Seating is limited and I believe it is first come first serve like prior Gato pop-ups. Expect at least a 30 minute wait time.