Thailand-born Dan Tanabat - co-owner with three other Thais of Patou Thai in Belmont - spent years at a Texas country club (where he learned the customer was never wrong) while training in hospitality at a local college there, finished his schooling at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, and then opened this elegant restaurant. At first glance of the menu, you see all the curries you might find at any of a number of Thai places and, of course, pad Thai. But look closer. There is nothing ordinary here, and it's all wonderfully authentic. (The furthest Patou ventures from his country's classic cuisine is a pan-seared halibut in red curry sauce, made with typical ingredients but presented in a more stylish fashion than Tanabat sees at home.) Our favorites include a vinegary salad with shrimp topped with slender strands of crunchy green papaya that are addictively good. Garden rolls have such thin skins that you can see through them to the big flat leaves of Thai basil rolled up with rice vermicelli, chicken, and crunchy vegetables. The cooks in the kitchen make a wonderful creation for themselves - tiny pieces of halibut skin dropped into the deep-fat fryer until they curl and crunch - that Tanabat sends out to regular diners. This is a dish that fishermen's families ate, because after they sold the fish, the skin was all that remained. You can't get closer to authentic than that.
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