Silom 12 Killer Thai | Bucktown, Chicago

Breaking the mold at Bucktown's new Silom 12

Chef Ong Satangmongkol built a menu of familiar curries, noodles and stir-fries for downtown's My Thai.

His sleek new Bucktown restaurant, Silom 12, champions more sophisticated flavors, including the salty funk of shrimp paste, the tang of pickled garlic, and the bright savoriness of citrus-spiked fish sauce, which dresses many of his best dishes.

To begin, the menu arrives with a basket of shrimp crackers to be dipped in his version of nam prik pao, a bold condiment of dried chilies, garlic, palm sugar and dried shrimp.

Fried tofu salad (pictured; $6) dexterously intermingles sweet, salty and spicy, with ground peanuts, dried chilies, shallots and scallions in a lively fish sauce-pickled garlic vinaigrette.

A coating of minced green chilies, onions and mint atop steamed sea bass ($16) has a similarly freshening effect; order jasmine rice to sop up the dish's tangy dressing.

Bone-in pork shank ($15) has a spectacular texture, with pull-apart meat enclosed in a crisp, deep-fried exterior. The sparse accompaniments of pineapple salsa and yellow mustard left us wanting more, but adding nam prik pao and rice helped boost the satisfaction levels.

The menu has plenty of standard dishes too, but avoiding the beaten path can lead to the most interesting Thai meal south of Irving Park.

Silom 12, 1846 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-489-1212 or