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

Thai Curry House (Burnsville, MN)

Thai Curry House: Guay Tiew
Living an hour south of the Twin Cities is no fun if you enjoy eating out. We live in a town with two colleges that somehow does not have a single Thai or Vietnamese restaurant—though given the state of our Chinese restaurants and the lone Indian restaurant that’s probably not a bad thing. The only decent food in town, really, is very casual Mexican at El Triunfo and there’s only so many times we can eat there in a month. Things don’t improve very much as you go further north. Not, in fact, until you cross the river into Bloomington: there Grand Szechuan heaves into view. But if you were looking for Thai food it used to be that you’d have to go much further to get anything that even went past passable status.

Continue reading

Luv2Eat Thai Bistro, Take 2 (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Phuket Style Fish Curry Kanomjean
Our meal in January at Luv2Eat, the Thai restaurant in Hollywood that is currently the favourite of a large subset of the Angeleno foodie set, was so good that it (like Szechuan Impression and Mori) was one of the places we wanted to come back to for sure on this recent trip as well. We wanted to try more of their menu and see how deep their list of hits runs. Well, the meal certainly did not disappoint—everything was very good indeed—but we didn’t find it quite as excellent as our first meal six months ago. Part of this is probably due to the fact that our expectations were very high after that meal and it wasn’t possible for us to be surprised a second time; part of it has to do with the fact that a couple of our dishes were served somewhat toned down. At any rate, I’d still recommend Luv2Eat to anyone looking for excellent Thai food in Los Angeles, but perhaps not quite as breathlessly as I did in January.  Continue reading

Lacha Somtum (Los Angeles, 2015 & 2016)

Lacha Somtum: Papaya Salad with Blue Crab
Though I am currently in Delhi I still have a couple of Los Angeles meal reports in hand and so I’m going to sandwich them around another Delhi report this week before turning to Delhi and then Hong Kong reports in the next couple of weeks. First up is a brief writeup of two meals at Lacha Somtum, eaten a few months apart. The first one was eaten last summer but by the time I got around to starting to write it up it was so far in the rear-view mirror that I decided to wait till the next trip to eat there again and post on more of the menu. That time is now. There were just the two of us at the first meal (a lunch), and we kept it light on account of needing to board a flight very soon after; at the second meal (a dinner) we were joined by Sku and family and we got a lot more stuff. Both meals were quite good.  Continue reading

Luv2Eat Thai Bistro (Los Angeles, Winter 2015-16)

Luv2Eat Thai Bistro
As I’ve noted on multiple occasions, Los Angeles almost certainly has the best Thai food in the United States. Las Vegas may have Lotus of Siam and Portland may have Pok Pok, but Los Angeles has Thai Town with its seemingly endless series of holes in the wall on Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. Yes, LA has seen a couple of trendier places open in the last year or so in Night+Market (and it’s spinoff, Song) and more recently two outposts of Andy Ricker’s burgeoning Pok Pok empire (which have failed to set the town on fire so far), but it’s to old Thai Town you must go to experience the breadth of what LA has to offer. From Jitlada‘s legendary and expansive southern Thai menu to more abbreviated regional proffers at Pailin or Lacha Somtum, from boat noodles at Sapp to Muslim dishes at Kruang Tedd, Thai Town has enough to keep both the specialist and the generalist happy.  Continue reading

Taste of Thai Yai (Apple Valley, MN)

A Taste of Thai Yai, Apple Valley
When I first started reviewing Twin Cities restaurants a snarky friend who lives on a coast cracked that it wouldn’t be long before I’d find myself reviewing marginal places in the suburbs. Well, fuck you, man, that’s not what’s happening here. There are still plenty of places in the Twin Cities I’m interested in reviewing; it’s just that I want to take a wider look at the Asian food scene here, especially the places a bit closer to us. I’m on record as saying that On’s Kitchen and Bangkok Thai Deli are the only Thai places in the area worth talking about but if we can find at least a couple of places within easier reach that aren’t totally heinous then that’s something. Well, I guess this might be it. Sort of. What we ate ranged from the unacceptable to the just about acceptable, but more was in the acceptable end of the spectrum than I feared would be the case when friends invited us to join us there this past weekend. Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli III

Bangkok Thai Deli: Stir-Fried Spicy Catfish
Following my mega Grand Szechuan round-up from last week, here is a report on a collection of meals eaten at Bangkok Thai Deli at various points in 2015 as well. In the past I’ve described Bangkok Thai Deli as being alongside On’s Kitchen at the top of the Twin Cities’ somewhat meager Thai scene. Based on our meals this year, I am sorry to say that I think it has dropped quite clearly to the second position. While we’ve eaten some very tasty things there, there’s been a lot of inconsistency and even some meals that were somewhat blah on the whole. We’ve still eaten there more than at On’s because we only get up to the Cities on the weekends and On’s is closed on Sundays, which puts it at a bit of a disadvantage vis a vis our wallets. As with my last Grand Szechuan post, what follows is a slideshow, with descriptions, of dishes that were (mostly) not reported on in my previous reviews (here and here).

Continue reading

Isaan Station Again (Los Angeles, July 2015)

Isaan Station: Tom Super
I ate at Isaan Station twice on our last trip to Los Angeles. On neither occasion was I accompanied by the missus and kids and I was thus resolved that we would go back together on this trip (it also helps that Isaan Station is in Koreatown and not Thai Town). While they do not have the dish that the boys are guaranteed to eat (chicken/pork satays) I knew they (and the missus) would love their wondrous grilled chicken and/or any of the other grilled meats; and that the missus would, at a minimum, also love whichever earthy, spicy soup we got. So it proved to be.
Continue reading