Thai with wings

Tom and Jen Chavalithvmrong dish up the stuffed chicken wings at Isan.

Tom and Jen Chavalithvmrong dish up the stuffed chicken wings at Isan.

Photo By David Robert

Isan Thai Restaurant

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

(775) 359-3009

I first heard about Isan when I was picking up a “The Thai restaurant,” the checker corrected her.

“Asian, Thai—what’s the difference?”

I never miss an opportunity to be condescending: “Thailand is a country, and Asia is a continent. Thailand is part of Asia, so though you’re actually correct to describe it as an Asian restaurant, it’s not very precise.”

“See,” said the girl, turning to the checker, “I’m not a total moron!”

My lady friend Sara and I went to scope it out the next weekend. The interiors were nice enough, if a little generic and not as formal as I had expected. We were seated next to a large mirror that would’ve been distracting and annoying if Sara and I weren’t both such total narcissists. The menus are eye-catching, with plastic relief scenes featuring elephants and fishermen.

We ordered a couple of Thai iced teas ($2.50), which they make deliciously, and started out with an appetizer, Peek Gai Yud Sai ($7.95): fried chicken wings stuffed with seasoned pork, shrimp, noodles, mushrooms and veggies. It was a perfect dish for me because I love Thai flavors, I love anything deep-fried, I love chicken wings, and I love meat stuffed into other meat. One of the basic things that distinguishes good food from bad food is that good food stimulates more parts of the palate, with wider, fuller flavors. This dish activated all sorts of places in my mouth.

I asked our waitress how to pronounce the name of the dish, and she responded, “I just call them stuffed chicken wings.” She seemed like a nice girl having a bad day at work. The service was fine but not really a selling point.

For the mains, I had Pad Him Marn Talay ($13.95): sauteed prawns, scallops, calamari, and mussels with carrots, celery, bell peppers, onions and cashews. It was tasty, and I liked the diversity of the seafood. Sara had a Thai staple, pad thai ($12.95), the ingredients of which I assume you know. When testing out a new Thai place, it’s nice to try the pad thai because it’s easy to gauge how it compares to other restarurants’ offerings of the dish. I’ve noticed that pad thai tends to come in a spectrum of colors ranging from bright, neon-orange to dull gray-brown. This pad thai was more brown than orange, which speaks well of its flavor, though it was a bit too sweet and not quite spicy enough.

We enjoyed a nice, leisurely meal, all the time checking ourselves out in the mirror. The atmosphere is relaxed, although it seems better suited for lunch than dinner. But this place is pretty good, and it’s nice that those northern, suburban Sparks people have a Thai place they can call their own. It’s worth checking out just for the stuffed chicken wings and other assorted Asian food.