For teachers like me, the end of the summer brings mixed emotions: excitement at a new year (yes, this is true) and a touch of melancholy over the waning days of freedom. And so it was that I recently met up with two colleagues at Café de Thai to celebrate both.
All three of us are lovers of Thai food, but only Kim is good at cooking it herself. Meredith and I just enjoy the fruits of her labors. Still, we all know what we’re looking for, and while we weren’t necessarily disappointed, we weren’t blown away, either.
Café de Thai is a lovely place. The furnishings are classy, spotless, and the service terrific. It is upscale Thai, to be sure. The walls are a calming yellow, and, near the bar, water drizzles down in a constant, soothing splash. If you are in need of a good place to calm down, this is probably it.
There were specials to be described by our exemplary server, even at the lunch hour. We decided to try the appetizer special: spring rolls of portabella and shiitake mushrooms, with lemongrass and three delightful sauces. They were, to be sure, some of the best spring rolls I’ve ever had. Everything was served on bright white, square plates, and presentation was perfect. I’ll admit our hopes were high. Our entrées, however, left us wanting.
Meredith had the soup and salad combination ($11.95): Thai slaw salad tossed with charbroiled shrimp and peanut dressing with chicken coconut soup. I started with a bowl of vegetable coconut soup ($6): tofu, fresh vegetables and shiitake mushrooms simmered with creamy coconut milk and cilantro. The soups were good, but it stopped there. They were very simple, and there was no real mélange of flavors going on—a bit bland. Her salad was better, but similarly basic.
Kim ordered the peanut chicken curry combination ($11.95): Thai egg roll and jasmine steamed rice, which advertised itself as spicy. This was an overstatement, to be sure. I like my food hot, but Kim isn’t so picky. However, even to her more tolerant palate, the spiciness was disappointing. Again, it was fine, but there is better to be found. I had the pad Thai ($11.95): shrimp, chicken, bean sprouts, peanuts and tofu, and we discovered the same to be true of this dish. It’s simply not the best pad Thai in Reno.
When ordering our entrées, none of us were asked how spicy we wanted our dishes. So I asked for something to take it up a notch once my meal came. To my delight, I was not given the standard metal apparatus with three different spices that have been in there for five years and used by lord knows how many previous patrons. Instead, my sauces came on small, elegant plates, with just enough to be used by me and then, yes, tossed. Other restaurants should take note of this. It greatly pleased these diners.
Overall, Café de Thai is good without being great. When you eat Thai food, you expect more of a medley of flavors to happen in your mouth. It should be more interesting. There should be flavors there that surprise and delight you. This food just didn’t have that. While it’s a gorgeous place to eat, and that it certainly is, the tastes don’t match up to the décor, presentation and promise.