Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mai Thai

Finally had a chance to go to Mai Thai the other night, after a couple previous failed attempts (on my end, not theirs). It's a new Thai restaurant on San Jacinto between 2nd and 3rd, or more specifically, between Max's Wine Dive and Piranha Killer Sushi. The interior has nice clean lines, rich red walls, and some cool looking light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. (They don't really seem like "chandeliers".) I didn't take any pictures of the decor, but there are a few to be viewed on their well-designed web site. There was only one host/server, but it wasn't busy, and he did a great job of refreshing water glasses, and checking in on us throughout the meal.

We started with mee krob, an old favorite of mine that I don't often see. It's vermicelli rice noodles that are deep fried til crispy, and tossed with a tamarind sauce. The one I had growing up in Washington, DC had a really great sweet twangy sauce that was drizzled over, as opposed to tossed all together like this one. I liked the egg strips and little tofu cubes, as it cut back a bit on the sweetness.
Next was somtum, or better known as green papaya salad. What a great summertime dish! Well, really an anytime dish, but there's something about being hot outside and eating a hot but refreshingly cool salad. Along with the green papaya, this had carrots, tomatoes, peanuts, and some cabbage on the side.  I would have liked a touch more fish sauce to really bring out the intensity of the different Thai tastes, but it was a very nice, fresh, presentation.
Followed by lard nar, stir fried wide rice noodles (which you can't see) with a brown soy bean paste gravy and Chinese broccoli. I am a sucker for the fresh rice noodles.... they're made in sheets and then cut into strips for various dishes. While Mai Thai doesn't use MSG, I think there was a lot of sodium in this one. It didn't seem like it at the time, but when I woke up in the morning, my fingers were definitely swollen.
And to finish it off, sweet rice with mango. I was pleasantly surprised by the strong coconut milk flavor in the rice.
Everything was fresh, and the dishes came out from the kitchen well-timed. There are many other dishes on the menu, particularly on the special dish section that I would love to try. They've also got some more mainstream Chinese-influenced dishes, I am sure to keep some of the non-Thai enthusiasts at bay. I should try their pad thai, as it's often a go-to dish when I try a new Thai place, sort of my measure of their abilities. It was a pleasant atmosphere, and I hope the place will succeed; it seems like a good location for an Asian restaurant that's NOT a national chain (PF Chang's is around the block). They've been active in social media, and offer happy hour specials. If you're looking for a new Thai spot, give Mai Thai a try.