Tasty Thai2598 Alta Arden Expressway
It’s probably hard to find a better lunch deal than the one offered at Tasty Thai. Every lunch special here includes rice and a salad with an entree—and costs $11 or less. There are 23 options, plus three daily specials. Many of the lunch items repeat as dinner options, but there are even more choices (43, to be exact) for dinner.
Finding Tasty Thai itself isn’t too hard. It has three large, waving flags on top of its building. Inside, the welcoming touches are just as festive: As soon as diners are seated, a server brings cups of water, each with a straw that’s topped with a rose-shaped origami creation made out of the straw wrapper.
The restaurant groups the lunch menu into four categories: Thai Wok Corner, rice and noodles, Thai soup, and Thai Curry Corner. Except for the soup, after choosing a dish, diners also pick a protein: chicken, beef, pork, tofu, shrimp, calamari or mixed seafood.
On my initial visit, I ordered the first item on the menu, Thai Basil, from the Wok Corner. It comes with green beans, onion, bell pepper and basil in a spicy garlic sauce, all cooked in a wok, of course. I asked for fried fish, which isn’t listed as one of the protein options, but it paired very well with the basil and garlic sauce. The dish has a nice smoky flavor that indicates the stir-fry was cooked on a well-seasoned wok at an extremely high heat. Also, I could see and feel the flames coming from behind a partition separating the dining room from the kitchen. All the vegetables were cooked slightly al dente and came out crunchy—a big plus in my book.
In the rice and noodles category, I tried staples such as pineapple fried rice, pad Thai and pad see ew. For the fried rice, I requested chicken to accompany the pineapple, cashew, onion, tomato, rice and curry powder. It came out piping hot and also exuded a smoky wok flavor. The pad Thai and the pad see ew both impressed, but the latter had just a bit more of that savoriness that makes Asian noodle dishes uber-comforting. The pad Thai needed a bit more salt and pepper to balance out a sweetness coming from the tamarind paste, though.
During another visit, I ordered the tom yum noodle soup, featuring soft rice noodles with veggies, shrimp, chicken and pork in a sweet-and-sour tamarind-based soup. It’s heavier on the sweet than the sour, and needed a little more fish sauce—nothing that couldn’t be fixed from the condiment tray, provided upon request.
I didn’t grab anything from the curry section, but did order a mango curry that was offered as a special. It was difficult to tell if this was a red or yellow curry, thanks to the copious sweet mangoes that tinted it orange. It was also served with bell peppers, onion and carrot—again, all cooked nicely al dente. Two other specials—pra ram chicken and grilled lemongrass pork chop—also were impressive. Both featured grilled meat with black sear marks and savory sauces: peanut sauce for the pra ram, and spicy soy and fish sauce for the pork chop.
Unfortunately, the restaurant is still waiting for its permit to serve alcohol, despite having being open for more than three months now. Still, the Thai ice tea and Thai ice coffee are both sweet and help alleviate some of the effects of the spice and hot temperatures of the food. Of the three desserts I tried—mango sticky rice, fried banana ice cream, and Thai roti with ice cream—the roti was the best: a fried flatbread topped with coconut ice cream.
Seriously, it’s hard to go wrong at Tasty Thai. Nearly every dish here is well-balanced and, true to its name, tasty. Service is friendly, even when it’s busy, and nearly every order is big enough for two meals. Expect delicious leftovers.