"Pakpao" Translates to "Kite," but it Really Means "Punch in the Palate"
Pakpao is a hot restaurant right now, in more ways than one. Not only is the dining room packed most days, making this a popular dining destination in Dallas, but the dining room is pretty warm, too. There was a similar climate control issue at FT33, where a massive in-room air conditioner belched out the chill during dinner service until recently. At Pakpao, floor fans stir up the air and toss the manes of long-haired diners like they're models on a photo shoot.
See also: This Week's Review: Pakpao
And then there's the food. Chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin makes no concessions to those who fear capsaicin's burn. If you don't like your red curry spicy, you're out of luck here. And while some may think this mandatory heat is an insensitivity on the part of the chef, (there are actually plenty of mild dishes) it's actually a refreshing change from the way most Thai restaurants handle spiciness.
When Thai and other Asian restaurants adopted spiciness by number, they gave up the integrity of their cooking in an attempt to please all of their customers. Dishes like curries and stir-fries aren't typically finished with chiles at the end, like a choose-your-own piquancy adventure. Instead, the chiles are normally incorporated in the first few steps of preparing the dish, and then cook down and integrate with it completely.
Making a number of curry pastes and other preparations that are very mild and then adding chiles at the end delivers a clunky heat profile. It's similar to shaking hot sauce over something that's already plated. Sure, you've added heat to the plate, but it's not really incorporated with the dish. You're losing cohesiveness and altering the flavor of the dish.
So buck up! Run to Pakpao and order the red curry and do your best to get through it. If you're a hot-head, you'll probably think it's refreshingly spicy. If you're not, you'll probably sweat pretty hard. But like many things, you can build up a tolerance to capsaicin. And your dreams that evening may be vivid and intense.
See also: How Hot Do You Want That?