397 Las Colinas Blvd. E, Irving
All those self-sustaining, walkable neighborhoods built, or to be built, in the DFW area are supposed to make the city seem somehow, well, like a real city. But one of the original and most European developments languishes.
Oh, the apartments are doing fine, as far as I know. And those glass office towers still cling to tenants, presumably. But the colony along Las Colinas' canal system have a difficult time holding onto small shops...except for Thai Chili, still plugging along happily after more than a decade.
Ten plus years after then Observer food critic Mark Stuertz wrote "Thai Chili is an example of masterfully executed cuisine, albeit in a 'master-planned' slot," the place has yet to slip.
The firm, tacky feel of their fish cakes do a wonderful job of mimicking the staple street vendor version, though with greater flair--in the discursive flavor profile bordering on sweet and murky, then grassy and sour, with a fermented edge. Corn fritters look just as plain from the outside, and burst with just as much diverse (and fresh) character when you dive in. Basil rolls unleash two distinct waves of mintiness over a crisp base.
Good stuff--but keep in mind, Thai Chili's gimmick is heat (you can order many dishes at intensity levels of one through four--maybe five), and the menu is authentic in Thai neighborhood terms...meaning you can order pan-Asian favorites such as orange chicken, as you would in a Bangkok diner.
Probably an apt comparison, as a glance at the space suggests a staff careless of fashion trends--like any basic eatery anywhere in the world.
The only thing they care about here is the service of pleasing dishes at surprisingly reasonable rates. One day last week I tried two appetizers, a soup, an entree--chicken curry prepared to moderate heat with dense, but quite subtle, spiciness--and a large glass of "Thai Tea" for $23 and change.
Ten years without slipping (or becoming some sort of woeful shell)--that's a remarkable record.
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