The Thai cure

Bryant, left, and Katie Cox dig into the “terrific, spicy, smoky” pad Thai at A Taste of Thai.

Bryant, left, and Katie Cox dig into the “terrific, spicy, smoky” pad Thai at A Taste of Thai.

Photo By David Robert

Our friend Bill “Ollie” Melton, who has spent time traveling and working in Thailand, recommended A Taste of Thai to me and my father. The three of us had day-before-Thanksgiving lunch plans, but Ollie was sick that morning so it was just dear old Dad and me.

I hadn’t been to the restaurant in a few years, but I remembered liking it. Ollie had told us that it was under new ownership; two longtime A Taste of Thai waitresses, Patchara Settewongse and Sansansee Gasuad, bought the restaurant a few months ago. The two still work the tables and are incredibly friendly and accommodating.

As we walked in the door, we bumped into some family friends who were just leaving. It was a large, pre-Thanksgiving gathering that included a gaggle of giggling children. The family patriarch told us lunch had been excellent and that the service had been very kid-friendly. The big hit with the under-10 crowd was the “chicken on a popsicle stick,” chicken satay ($5.95).

We had a table near the window. The environment was comfortable, with quite a few plants, always a nice sign. The smooth jazz background music was a little too loud, but other than that, everything was really pleasant.

To drink, we had Thai iced coffees ($2), which come with a free refill, a rarity in Thai restaurants. We started with a plate of Lakeridge rolls ($4.95): rice paper, vermicelli, fresh basil and tofu rolls served with Thai peanut sauce. They were quite good. The cool, clean taste of the rolls contrasts nicely with the warm, spicy peanut sauce.

We both went with the luncheon special, which includes steamed white rice, fried wonton, Thai salad, the soup of the day and one entrée. I had the teriyaki salmon ($7.95), grilled, marinated salmon with teriyaki sauce.

My dad’s hearing is starting to go. “Wait, did I hear that right? Did you just order a turkey sandwich?”

“No, Dad, teriyaki salmon.”

It would have been, of course, outrageous if I had ordered a turkey sandwich, this being the day before Thanksgiving, and turkey sandwiches being not exactly a Thai delicacy. The teriyaki salmon, on the other hand, was very good. The side dishes were meager servings but with distinct, complementary flavors, except the soup of the day, a bland vegetable tofu.

Dad had his luncheon special with the fresh ginger dish ($5.95), shredded ginger, onion, bell peppers, mushroom and tofu. After eating a few bites, he launched into a long-winded lecture on the curative powers of ginger that somehow morphed into advice about my future. You couldn’t get from, “It cleanses your digestive tract” to “What have you decided about law school?” any quicker if you tried.

We also ordered pad Thai ($9.95), the noodle dish by which all Thai restaurants must be judged. It is, perhaps, a bit narrow-minded of me to have a culinary prerequisite such as this, but I could never recommend a Thai restaurant without good pad Thai. Everything else could be excellent, but if the pad Thai is sub-par, then it’s going to get a thumbs-down.

This is because the balance of flavors between the noodles, egg, tofu, bean sprouts, green onions, peanuts, shrimp and chicken, when done well, can be absolutely perfect. It’s pretty darn close at A Taste of Thai. There isn’t the fishy taste that sometimes mars the dish, but instead a terrific, spicy, smoky flavor.

We took the leftover pad Thai home to poor, sick Ollie—who was sadly missed at lunch—along with a shrimp-and-coconut-milk soup, which he later touted as "both medicinal and delicious. It made me feel better right away."