It wasn’t that long ago* that I opined, in response to a friend’s question in our comments, that there were no Thai restaurants in Tallahassee worth visiting. That wasn’t just an idle bit of snark, because we had done our due diligence and given all of Tallahassee’s stand-by Thai places a try. Time after time, we got our hopes up, only to have them dashed. Some of those memories are particularly dark, like the time we were amped to see mango sticky rice on the menu at Siam Sushi, only to be served something that was covered in chocolate sauce. (Yes, that actually happened, and even just retelling it makes me feel like I am going to throw up in my own mouth.) But even then, we did not give up. With persistence, I was sometimes able to convince servers to persuade the chefs to make dishes in an authentic style, with appropriate levels of heat, but I hate having to be that pushy, and sometimes even that wouldn’t do the trick. Eventually I just gave up, and planned to explore cooking my own Thai food at some point in the future.
Well, I am happy to say that there is a finally a place in town where serving authentic and delicious Thai dishes is the default rule rather than a rare exception. After reading Mike’s promising review, Sarah and I couldn’t wait to check out Thai Place. So, in search of some post-Thanksgiving culinary variety, we headed up there with my sister Jayne to see if it was as good as it sounded.
Thai Place is run by a family of restauranteurs who recently moved here from Orlando, where they had earned a healthy following among the locals. Well, Orlando’s loss is our gain. Apparently the owners are confident enough in their offerings that they don’t really feel like they need to try hard to garner our attention. They gave their restaurant a name that is both generic and virtually un-googleable (try it and see), and they sited it in an out-of-the-way corner of our northern suburbs. But you know what? The food is good enough that they just might pull it off. Once I tasted my first dish there, in a tastefully decorated dining room on a quiet Friday night, I decided to make it my personal mission to drive as much business there through word of mouth as possible. Frankly, I will do whatever is necessary to keep this place in business, because I have gone too long living in a town without decent Thai. So, with the intros out of the way, let me do my best to convince you to give this place a try.
First of all, there are the soups. The night we visited, we were urged by our servers to try the tom kha gai. It was, quite simply, the best Thai soup I have tasted in a long time. The coconut milk melded perfectly with the lemongrass and lime, the chicken was tender and the veggies delicious. I didn’t even want any soup when I stepped into the restaurant, but I finished the bowl before I knew it. Another starter worth mentioning was their larb, a lovely salad of pork, raw onion and toasted rice powder, made rich and pungent with lime juice and peppers. I haven’t had a larb this good in a very long time, and I recklessly dug in without worrying about saving room for dinner.
When our dinners came, they were accompanied by this selection of awesome spicy things:
I tasted all of these, and I was impressed by their flavors, but I honestly didn’t need them for most of the dishes. Unlike a lot of places, if you ask for something “Thai Spicy” at Thai Place, you get what you asked for. We tried this with the pad see ew, and found that our dish was just as hot as we could handle, with a nice amount of browning on the steak bits and the broccoli. I wish this had the thick, gummy wide rice noodles that I associate with my favorite renditions of this dish, but I still thought this was a well-done noodle dish. For a milder treat, we tried the yellow curry with pork, which was smooth and savory, making for some great comfort food on a chilly evening. My sister ordered the Panang curry with tofu (pictured at the top of this post), which was also quite good, melding peanut, coconut, and spice in just the right ways. Each of these dishes was good enough to get again and again, which is not a reaction I have ever had before at a Thai place here in town.
Our dessert, unfortunately, didn’t live up to the same standard. They were out of mango sticky rice, so we went with a dish that sounded great on paper: Fried banana spring rolls with coconut ice cream. The spring rolls were perfect, but the texture on the ice cream was seriously odd, more akin to eating a nicely flavored paste than a premium ice cream. I wouldn’t order that dish again, but I’ll definitely be back to Thai Place with some frequency.
* To be fair, it was actually pretty long ago. Regular readers may have noticed that this blog went dark for an awfully long stretch in the Fall of 2013. Unfortunately, a combination of too-much-work and a spate of illnesses (both human and feline) made it hard to find time or energy for blogging. But after a very pleasant and restorative Thanksgiving, we are back in business, so keep your eyes peeled for more posts over the holidays!