Thai Cafe, Again (St. Paul, MN)


We ate at Thai Cafe for the first time late in 2017, really liked the meal despite a major misstep (a number of dishes came out sans heat), and vowed to come back again soon. Predictably, it took us almost another year to make it back, but make it back we did. With us were most of the people who had joined us on the first occasion. We were a large group—eight adults and our two brats—and we got a large number of dishes that we hadn’t tried on that first visit (please read that review if you have not already done so). I am pleased to report that the second meal was not a letdown—in fact, it was better than the first.  Continue reading

Ruam Mit Thai (St. Paul)


Ruam Mit Thai has been around in St. Paul for at least a couple of decades now. I’m not sure, however, if they’ve always been at the current location or if the ownership has remained the same—if anyone reading this knows any of this or a near-definitive date of opening, please write in below. They are currently located on St. Peter St., just by the Children’s Museum. We are given to haunting the Children’s Museum in the summer and this year we finally decided to give Ruam Mit Thai a try. This report draws on three meals eaten this month. One with just me and the brats and two with the missus along as well. Read on to see how we fared.  Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli IV (St. Paul, MN)


Rounding out my recent run of reviews of the mainstays of the Thai restaurant scene on University Avenue, here is my fourth review of Bangkok Thai Deli. (Here are my recent reviews of On’s Kitchen, Lao-Thai, Thai Cafe, and Thai Garden.) Like almost everyone else, we have Bangkok Thai Deli at the top of our Twin Cities Thai ranking, usually just a bit behind On’s Kitchen (which, as you probably know, began as a breakaway from Bangkok Thai Deli when they were still in their original space). I’ve always felt that at their respective bests, On’s is superior; on the other hand, Bangkok Thai Deli has been less variable for us, and given the very different ethnic demographic they draw, the food tends to come out hotter and less sweet as a default. Well, we thought the meal I’m reporting on here was superior to our last meal at On’s, even though there were a couple of dishes that disappointed (one of which was a dud).  Continue reading

Lao Thai (St. Paul)


My last four Minnesota restaurant reviews have been re-reviews—of House of Curry, Spoon and Stable, On’s Kitchen and A&L Chinese. One of the nice things about being an independent blogger is that there’s no compulsion to only review new places or places you haven’t been to before. And I hope that to my few readers from the Twin Cities (and environs) there’s some value to seeing follow-up reports from places that the professionals haven’t covered in a few years or more. This week’s review, however, is of a place I’ve not only not reviewed before, I’d not eaten there before the meal covered in this review: Lao Thai, or as they also bill themselves, Family Lao Thai. It’s another institution on University Avenue in St. Paul: opposite Trieu Chau and not too far away from Thai Garden or Thai Cafe. As the name proclaims, their food is a mix of Thai and Lao; and I am happy to tell you that you should go and eat their food.  Continue reading

On’s Kitchen III (St. Paul)


After an iffy report from Minneapolis (of dinner at Kado no Mise), I have a very positive report from St. Paul: of lunch at one of the most reliable restaurants in the Twin Cities, On’s Kitchen. This is my third review of the Twin Cities’s best Thai restaurant. We’ve eaten there several times since my previous review and somehow it’s been 2.5 years since I’ve got to writing them up again. We were there for lunch last weekend with a small subset of our usual dining out crew and we ordered a number of old favourite dishes plus some we haven’t eaten so often. It was all very good.  Continue reading

Jitlada II (Los Angeles, December 2017)


Last October brought the terrible news of the passing of Chef Tui Sungkamee. Along with his sister Jazz Singsanong, Chef Sungkamee ran what has probably been the greatest Thai restaurant in the United States for the last decade. She runs the front of the house and remains the face of Jitlada; he was the unassuming presence in the kitchen whose cooking introduced so many of us to the flavours and ingredients of southern Thai cooking; and even through its intense heat, made us understand how nuanced and subtle Thai food can be. A major loss but our meal there in December—intended as a paying of respects—allows us to believe that his legacy and the restaurant will survive. It was another excellent meal and made us kick ourselves for having waited four years since our last visit to go back.  Continue reading

Thai Cafe (St. Paul)


My survey of the Twin Cities Thai restaurant scene continues and we’re once again on University Avenue in St. Paul. We ended up at Thai Garden last week (see the review) while attempting to eat at Thai Cafe—they were closed for a few days at the end of last week. We managed to fulfill the quest a week later. Our party included everyone who was at the Thai Garden lunch plus a couple more adults. We managed to eat quite a bit of the menu. And if we weren’t quite as impressed with Thai Garden as some of its press had led us to expect we might be, I am happy to report that Thai Cafe lived up to their own laudatory press. Indeed, after the first couple of dishes we were ready to place it on the On’s Kitchen level. And if not for an unfortunate error that marred the second half of the meal (see below), we might well have ended up there, at least at the level of the cooking.  Continue reading

Thai Garden (St. Paul)


My last Twin Cities Thai outing—at Khun Nai Thai—in Minneapolis was middling at best. Some things were fine, some things were blah and some things were not very good. We’d thought we’d next return to one of our mainstays on University Avenue in St. Paul—Bangkok Thai Deli or On’s Kitchen—but I was persuaded by the comments on that review to try Thai Cafe next. Alas, an hour before we were scheduled to arrive there with friends we discovered that they were closed for a few days. On a whim we decided to go just a block up University to Thai Garden, a newer place that’s gotten some good press in the last year. The Heavy Table praised them in their Green Line Checklist, and Mecca Bos (then still with City Pages) gave it one of her more than slightly overwrought workouts. Our lunch started out looking like it was going to be in line with those reports but didn’t quite end that way.  Continue reading

Khun Nai Thai Cuisine (Minneapolis)


Khun Nai Thai Cuisine sits in the location of the erstwhile Krungthep Thai on Nicollet Avenue. The previous was a satellite location of Bangkok Thai Deli (one of the two very good Thai restaurants in the Twin Cities—On’s Kitchen is the other). We ate there once a few years ago, and while we enjoyed a few things, there were some big problems with the meal—as a result, we never went back and then they eventually closed (I do not mean to suggest cause and effect). Even though we’ve never had good luck with any of the local Thai places outside the big 2, I was intrigued when I heard of Khun Nai; especially as they got a good review on Chowhound for their khao soi—the dish that was the biggest disappointment at our meal at Krungthep Thai. We’re always in the market for good khao soi, and decent Thai food in Minneapolis would be a good thing too. It took us a while to get out there but we did eventually make it in mid-October. And we liked our meal enough to go back again this past weekend. Did the positive streak continue? Read on. Continue reading

Thairiffic (Glasgow)


After Tuesday’s review of a meal at an outpost of London’s Thai Square chain, here is a review of another basic Thai restaurant in the UK, this time in Glasgow. We used Glasgow entirely as a port of entry and departure for our Scotland trip in June. On our way in we arrived by train in the evening, had dinner at the closest Nando’s and left for Drumnadrochit the next morning. On our way out we arrived in the late afternoon from Islay via Tarbert and wanted to eat somewhere other than Nando’s. We looked around our hotel and spotted Thairiffic, a restaurant whose food, we reasoned, was bound to be better than its name.  Continue reading

Thai Square (London)


I said in my review of meals at Smoking Goat, the hip and casual Thai restaurant in Bloomsbury, that it’s not the kind of place where you should expect tom yum or drunken noodles or large bowls of curry. Thai Square, however, is. It’s a chain with a large number of locations in London (though very far from the ubiquity of Itsu) and they all serve fairly mainstream Thai food. Having walked by a number of their locations over our first few weeks in London, we finally succumbed to our curiosity on leaving the V&A at lunch time one Friday and seeing their South Kensington location close at hand. Herewith the details.  Continue reading

Joy’s Pattaya Thai (Richfield, MN)


There is no Thai food of any kind in our little town, decent or otherwise. This has meant going all the way up to University Avenue in St. Paul anytime we have a big Thai craving. Our attempts to find plausible alternatives to these long drives to On’s Kitchen or Bangkok Thai Deli have so far led us to Thai Curry House in Burnsville (decent), Spice in Savage (not good) and Taste of Thai Yai in Apple Valley (somewhere in between). Accordingly, when Joy’s Pattaya Thai in Richfield was recommended in February by an occasional reader as a good option for Thai food in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis, I filed it away. My mental filing system being what it is, we only just ended up going there for the first time this past weekend. Here is an account of what we found.  Continue reading

Smoking Goat (London)


I am not very clear on what the situation is with Thai food in London. I do know that it’s very popular—there are a number of Thai restaurants around town, and the Thai Square chain is ubiquitous. But it doesn’t appear from a desultory survey of food reviews and blogs as though there are any Thai-owned/operated restaurants that anyone gets excited about. Time Out’s list of the 100 best restaurants in London, for example, lists a number of South Asian-run South Asian restaurants and Chinese-run Chinese restaurants and even Malaysian-run Malaysian restaurants but the only Thai places that show up on it are a couple of places (Som Saa and The Begging Bowl) which are in the vein of Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok mini-empire in the US—namely, restaurants run by non-Thai chefs who have spent some time traveling in Thailand, researching Thai food and whose restaurants translate that food into forms and spaces favoured by metropolitan (mostly) non-Thai diners who might not otherwise spend a lot of money on Thai food or think of it as hip. I have some thoughts, as you might expect, on this larger phenomenon and even more broadly on the controversies around such approaches to non-Western cuisines and “cultural appropriation” currently raging in the US, but I don’t have time to go into them right now. I do have a review of Smoking Goat, however. Continue reading

Spice (Savage, MN)

Spice Thai: Satay
Spice is located in Savage, one of Minneapolis’ southern suburbs. And if the prosaic town of Savage can’t quite live up to its name, Spice also fails to deliver on its promise of “[T]he…only authentic Thai Cuisine South of the River”. (I’m not sure, by the way, if the restaurant’s name is just Spice or Spice Thai.) Once upon a time I would not have bothered to eat at a Thai restaurant in the suburbs, but having been pleasantly surprised by Thai Curry House we were optimistic. Well, if recent history has taught us anything it is that optimism leads naturally to dull disappointment. So it was for us at Spice. Our lunch here a few weeks ago was very disappointing. I know I said I’d be changing the focus of my restaurant reviews with a view towards supporting immigrant-run places but I can’t bring myself to say that a place like Spice is better than it is.  Continue reading