Stepping into Maikham Lao and Thai might feel like stepping into another world – which is exactly how Chef and Owner Usanee Klimo wants her customers to feel.
The restaurant, which sits on one of Fairhaven’s busiest roads, is a spot where diners are immediately immersed in art and decorations Klimo doesn’t consider to be fancy, but are all representative of her roots and origins of the food she is serving.
While immersing oneself in the space already feels like the start of an exciting experience, it’s the company of Klimo herself– and the flavors of her cuisine– that will immediately have you thinking about when you can return.
Klimo’s long journey across the world explains just why her food is so delicious. After being born in Northeast Thailand, she grew up learning from and eating her mother’s food. Klimo eventually found herself living all over – from working in the United States embassy in Thailand to California, where she taught cooking and catered.
It is fair to say that Klimo is one of those people you consider yourself lucky to cross paths with. This is because of how she effortlessly radiates kindness and passion toward her restaurant – but due to the food she cooks. Of the dishes I was served, each had its own unique palate, flavor, and experience, all bursting with spices and depth.
Starting the meal off strong meant beginning with the Fresh Roll ($9.99). The translucent rice paper was stuffed with fresh, crisp, and colorful vegetables enveloping a nicely spiced tofu. The standout of the dish, however, was the mint and basil tucked within the roll that gave a refreshing bite and complemented the sweet chili dipping sauce.
To follow up the Fresh Roll, was Maikham’s signature dish– and one of the many bites I couldn’t stop thinking about after my meal. The Chan Pad Pou ($17.99) was composed of thin, slightly chewy but perfectly-cooked noodles which soaked up all of the flavors of the tamarind sauce. The sweetness of the tamarind in turn paired well with the fresh chunks of crab meat. Mixed within were slightly crunchy vegetables and delicately scrambled eggs, all of which worked together to complete the hearty and satisfying dish.
Next came the showstopper – the Duck Curry ($18.99). It was put on the menu because her family insisted that it was their favorite, and that decision was clearly the right one.
The dish consists of vegetables, shreds of tender duck meat, and rice. The combo of crunchy and creamy textures, namely with the veggies and lip-tingling spiced curry sauce, made for a dish that was well-balanced and hit every note.
With every step Klimo has taken throughout her life, each has seemingly been driven by a love for food and her family. Along with her community, her children have inspired her (bonus points for getting the duck curry on the menu!) and driven Klimo to never give up on what she has worked for.
“The energy every day that made me get out of bed and come here is my children,” Klimo says. “I just told myself I have to be an example for my kids, [and] that whatever happens, it cannot affect me. I have to stay strong and work hard.”
1125 Finnegan Way, Ste. 101, Bellingham, 360.746.8098, maikham.com