Cramped tables. Your familiar Thai friends tom yum, larb and pad woon sen with shrimp. Spice so intense you're breathing fire. Everyone has his own taste, but everyone expects specific things from a Thai restaurant. Those expectations are almost useless at Aloy Modern Thai, which takes the cred owners Bo Bean and Arisa Chanchokpon built up at sister restaurant Aloy Thai Cuisine and drops it in into a modern setting on Upper Larimer with a menu modified for hip palates. Inevitably, Aloy added a happy-hour menu as well, bringing new flavors to a block crawling with bars.
Taking up the smooth space that Trillium departed last year, Aloy didn't add much but a new coat of paint and rotating artwork on the rough brick walls. Aloy is trying a similar trick to that of its predecessor: craft cocktails and adventurous small plates paired with a voluminous bar and game-day specials for Rockies fans. Six months into the experiment, it's hard to tell if it's catching on: a nearly empty house in the afternoon slowly grew into a respectable crowd as happy hour marched on, as it does daily from 3 to 6 p.m.
What Aloy offers isn't quite Asian fusion. From noodle soups to papaya salads and drunken noodles, all the usual suspects are lined up. Unique flourishes abound, like a battered Brie tempura appetizer with wasabi honey ($9), or spicy duck for dinner, paired with kumquat confit. As the owners attest, it's a philosophy that owes more to contemporary cuisine in Bangkok than to Western trends. Five-buck snacks at happy hour follow this example to a degree, mostly offering typical Thai preliminaries with a few twists. Crab-cheese wontons were presented by our server with a hearty "Ta-da!" and an elegant carrot-swan garnish. Crispy on the outside and nuclear-hot on the inside, these are sure to survive a carryout order. Ultimately, though, the wrapper and its contents are a bit dry, the collision of cream cheese and what the menu swears is crab not all that affecting. That sweet-and-sour sauce on the side, though, makes it almost worth it. Almost everything at happy hour has this sticky stuff as backup, and for a damn good reason.
Aloy's corn fritters are the most unexpected thing uncovered at happy hour, and they manage to give even the legendary fritters at White Fence Farm a serious challenge. Popping with knobbly sweet corn, they're not awfully sweet, just pleasingly textured like, little nuggets of honeycomb. Belly buns, two to a plate, are brought with giant, jiggling slices of slow-cooked pork belly and bits of lettuce, scallion and pickled carrot. My companion and I had differing opinions on the buns themselves: She said they were too doughy; I thought they were appropriately spongy. We did agree that the meat itself could have used a few more whacks from the flavor stick, even with a ton of finger-licking brown sauce. Crackling calamari is a house special, with snappy batter coating each ring and tentacle. A little salt would have taken the burden of flavor off the sweet-and-sour sauce.
If Aloy's happy-hour food selection was expected, the quality of the drinks certainly wasn't. House cocktails run $7, and at least one of them proves that the bar program is a worthy attraction. The mai tai here isn't devoted to tiki tradition; it speaks of trade winds rather than Trader Vic's. Based on Mekhong spiced rum from Thailand, it's shaken with triple sec, lime juice, bitters and housemade orgeat syrup that completes the tropical effect. Contemporary, not colonial, this is a drink that announces Aloy as a cocktail contender. Furthermore, the bar makes its own soda, with Palm Syrup ($4), Medicinal Tonic ($3) that can be made toxic with a splash of gin, and Lavender Lemonade ($4) that promises to reduce "headache, anxiety and depression." Cheaper pleasures include $3 pale ales from Fort Collins Brewing, $4 cans of other local brews, and $5 wells.
Considering the many fine meals I've had at Aloy in Boulder, I'd suggest you're missing out by not pairing a few happy-hour plates and cocktails with a plate of noodles or curry. Aloy has the Thai fundamentals locked down; even if some of the happy-hour eats lack zing, there's no doubt this place has plenty of spice to offer.
Don't Miss: Five Points and RiNo residents have always had a couple of options for delivery Thai, but Aloy Modern Thai, delivering through Eat24, expands the possibilities. Whether it's a fancy dinner with duck or a working lunch with black-pepper stir fry ($14), you can see if Aloy is up to snuff from the comfort of your home, office or pop-up art gallery/artisan distillery.
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