Thai-tanic tastes

Smoke gets in your eyes: Chef Jen Chavalithumtong works the wok. She is making pad thai.

Smoke gets in your eyes: Chef Jen Chavalithumtong works the wok. She is making pad thai.

Photo By David Robert

Isan Thai Restaurant

2855 N McCarran Blvd.
Sparks, NV 89431
Ste. 108

(775) 359-3009

Isan is a cute little hole in the wall in Sparks. I must have driven by this place 100 times and never knew it was there until my girlfriend, Chérie, told me that I should check it out.

Located in the Raley’s shopping center on Pyramid and McCarran next door to Black Rock Pizza, Isan, is named after the northeastern region of Thailand. I probably never noticed the place before because I am always trying to negotiate traffic through the wacko intersection that draws you in. I’m usually more worried about trying to get in and out of there as fast as I can.

The Thai eatery has a comfy, quiet dining room. I always enjoy entering Thai restaurants. Walking through the front door is like slipping into a whole different dimension—like entering into an exotically ordered orchid, a thought that makes more sense than the crazy outside world often does.

Isan has soft Thai music playing on its sound system, and the walls are decorated with pleasant Thai tapestries, artifacts and posters. It is clean and calm, yet not so snooty that you feel intimidated out of bringing your kids along. Some restaurants are so loud, you can’t even hear yourself think—not Isan.

Chérie and I went in for dinner on a Monday night. It was slow. There were three other parties in the house besides us. We were seated quickly. As we checked out the menu, the busperson brought us our water. Chérie knew right away what she wanted—the Guay Teow Pad Ga Prow, or as some folks pronounce it, “number 46,” for $9.95. I don’t know what all that means, but I do know that if it says “pad” it has noodles. Turns out, Guay Teow are wide, Thai rice noodles, and Pad Ga Prow is a mixture of sweet basil, fresh chili, pepper and onions sautéed in meat. She went with the chicken, and soon her plate was full of stir-fried noodles, bell peppers, onions, straw mushrooms, baby corn and fresh basil. In my opinion, anything Thai made with fresh basil is going to be good.

I ordered the Pra Ram Long Srong, or #30, for $10.95. This came with a choice of meat. I had the pork, sautéed as it was with that delicious Thai spicy peanut sauce and baby spinach. The dish came with a choice of sticky white rice or brown rice, hence the “Srong.” Feeling as though I had been eating too much white rice recently, I opted for the brown.

Our food was prepared quickly and arrived with a little chili cart. There were dried chiles, pickled Thai chiles, Sambal hot sauce and chili oil. Most places skimp and try to slip you pickled jalapeños. Isan has the real deal—Thai chiles.

My dinner was delicious as prepared, but I added a little heat with the Thai chiles and some Sambal to give it a nice kick. The pork was tender, and the peanut sauce was sweet and nutty. Combined with the baby spinach and the brown rice, it was a delicious meal, full of nutrition for a reasonable price. Chérie’s No. 46 was awesome. The rice noodles were big and fat, and the whole dish had a nice, fresh taste. The basil certainly helped ensure that.

When we got the bill, we were surprised to see that it was actually cheaper than the breakfast we had eaten that morning.