Sweet and cuddly

Go on, indulge--Thai Thai doesn't let heat get in the way of flavor

The whole population of this neat-as-a-bandbox (what is a bandbox?) little restaurant was facing the rear wall to watch a green parrot pivot on its perch to reach a morsel of food, reaching, reaching...till finally it overreached itself, capsized, and fell off its perch.

Who ever saw a bird fall? Is this funny? Even the waiter craned his head around and laughed.

That was dinner at Thai Thai in what you could truly call a "homey" atmosphere--dominated by "America's Funniest Home Videos." TV power overcame the whole dining room, and we succumbed together to the mindlessness of Monday night prime time, because something on TV is better than nothing. Anyway, our mouths were too full to talk.

Speaking of TV, don't you know that Seinfeld routine where he marvels over the continued use of chopsticks in China, where after all, he points out, they have mastered the concept of shovels?

One great thing about Thai food is that it's Oriental cuisine without the chopsticks, which allows you to completely indulge yourself. The Thai abandoned chopsticks (except for eating noodles) years ago; Thai food is generally served with Western implements. (We knew that already, because we all saw how Deborah Kerr westernized Yul Brynner in The King and I.)

But we might pack some sticks in self-defense the next time we go to Thai Thai; we could use something to slow us down.

Thai Thai serves a milder version of dishes we know better with the heat turned up. This is Thai food with the punches pulled, defanged and declawed. Not gutted, though--even with the heat turned down a notch, there were delicious layers of subtle flavor and scent in almost everything we ate.

In fact, our dinner just goes to show what can happen when the natural restraints are removed: this food at Thai Thai was not too hot to eat, so we ate lots.

We started with "Shrimp Sticks"--shrimp, tightly shrouded in rice-paper wrappers fried to flaky gold, with only their smothered tails sticking out. Somehow the shellfish within was still firm, sweet, and juicy; sweet-and-sour syrup to dip was good, but unnecessary.

But that wasn't our only so-called appetizer. We tried our favorite milky white chicken coconut soup, a lovely composition here, coconut milk sweetness with the fragrance of lime leaves but not the puckering effect of lime juice. And the inevitable satay (see Thailanna review, above; satay seems to be the same everywhere, etc.). And the Yum Nua, a mountainous salad of chewy beef strips, onion, pale lettuce, dark green cilantro, cucumbers, and tomatoes tossed together in a lime and chili dressing, the kind of salad that some people order as an entire meal.

Then we ate pineapple fried rice, which we optimistically thought we'd sample and take home for lunch the next day: a plate full of browned rice, threads of egg, whole curled shrimp, peppers, tartly fresh pineapple and purely sweet raisins, circles of bright scallion. We followed that with the drama of a whole fried snapper, its dark deep-fried crust entirely smothered with little brown mushroom caps, strips of red and green pepper, bits of onion and chilies, the sweet white flesh still moist under the thick coating, scored so you could remove the flesh from the bone easily. Too easily for our own good.

And believe it or not, still to come: pad prik khing, thin wafers of pork meat mixed with crisp bright green beans in a red chili sauce, yes, but chili made seductive and pseudo-soothing with the sweetness of coconut and ginger.

Did I mention this was dinner for two?
Next on "Geraldo": couples who gained 10 pounds eating a single Thai meal.

--Mary Brown Malouf

Thai Thai, Greenville Ave., 828-9795. Open for lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., for dinner Monday-Thursday 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Friday 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m., Saturday noon-11 p.m.

Thai Thai:
Finger Shrimp $4.50
Yum Nua (beef salad) $7.95
Pad Prik Khing (pork and green beans) $7.95
Pla Rad Prik (whole red snapper with chili basil sauce) $14.95

1995

 
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