Every Thai dish should offer the palate a lively interplay of sour, sweet, heat, and salt. But most Thai restaurants in the United States have dumbed down their food, muting all but the sugar to appeal to American diners. Ruen Pair takes a few risks by putting all the heat, pungency, and excitement back in. Though the service can be aggravatingly slow, your waiter will help you find your way to Northern Thai (issan
) specialties, such as seafood muffin and grilled lemongrass sausage with a fiery chile-lime sauce. They don't shy away from raw beef and seafood salads and less familiar vegetables such as morning glories. And macho man -- yeah, you with the subscription to Chile Pepper
magazine -- if you didn't grow up on Thai food, don't insist on "spicy." You might embarrass yourself in front of your date.