Flirting with every flavor

Thai Asian Bistro

Tom yum noodle soup at Thai Asian Bistro.

Tom yum noodle soup at Thai Asian Bistro.

photo by rebecca huval

Good for: Everything? But especially tom yum soup, kao nam tod, crab rangoon, mango curry ...
Thai/Laotian, South Sacramento

Thai Asian Bistro

6623 Valley Hi Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95823

(916) 689-4085

Never have I been more excited to recommend a new restaurant.

This summer, several Thai eateries opened up within miles of each other in South Sacramento. I tried three, and the winner was obvious. Thai Asian Bistro creates a symphony of flavors and textures that balance right at that narrow edge of near-perfection. The ever-present waitress doesn’t even have to be friendly, but she is. She’ll smile and laugh throughout dinner, confidently suggest what you should order and help judge the singers on the Thai version of The Voice that’s buzzing on TV.

The restaurant resides in a South Sacramento strip mall with above-average excitement: Driving there at night, I almost hit arguing teenagers who lurched into the street and a rave dancer in a crosswalk. Once inside, the shotgun space exudes calm. Southeast Asian artworks shimmer with gold, and orchids and wine racks surround the cashier’s checkout.

With clear and helpful photography, the menu boasts Thai and Laotian staples like papaya salad and larb beef, but also twists and lesser known meals, like crab pad thai and curry cream puffs (similar to Indian samosas). The appetizers list includes shrimp in a blanket and Lao sausage. Several salads (clean noodle and squid!) and soups (chicken coconut and kao-poon!) entice. The entrees are divided into stir-fried, curry and “chef recommended.”

The kitchen rocks at texture. I knew I wanted to review Thai Asian Bistro after I tried the kao nam tod ($8.95). The pork salad appetizer rivals the popular version of the dish at Oakland’s Champa Gardens. The lettuce, freshly chartreuse and dewy with droplets, cupped crunchy fried rice cooked in savory oil. The pork sausage tasted of shallots, basil and chili, but its meatiness still shone through. This dish flirted with the give-and-take of soft and crisp consistencies to create an interplay that entertained with each bite.

The cooks at Thai Asian Bistro also know how to balance flavors. The tom yum noodle soup ($9.95) smelled aromatic with lemongrass, cilantro and green onions. It was sweet with peanuts and sugar, offset with the sourness of kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce and the ginger-like spiciness of galangal. This dish felt like a study in the power of acid to kick up every other flavor profile. A spoonful contained a prism of craveable tastes.

Lastly, this place has finesse. Slurp the shrimp mango curry ($12.95), and you’ll encounter a broth that’s creamy with coconut milk, a touch savory and only subtly sweet. Instead of the starchy potatoes found in many yellow curries, the mangoes are a surprise of fructose with the feel of edible satin. The shrimp are hefty bass clefs fresh enough to remember the song of the sea.

Go there, but not now. Until November 14, Thai Asian Bistro is closed due to a family emergency, according to its phone recording. But on November 15, I’d suggest recording the Kings v. Hawks game and shopping for your turkey brine another day. There’s something far more delicious to try.