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Savor, The Review, Too: The Spice of Life

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Photograph by Thom Thompson http://thomthompson.com

 

In Delaware, Indian and Chinese restaurants seem to be more common than black license plates. Thai restaurants, however, are harder to find.

Tasti Thai therefore is a welcome addition to the dining scene. Forgive the name, which elicits images of lemongrass-laced squid in a waffle cone. Forgive also its location in Community Plaza Shopping Center, whose façade was beyond shabby 10 years ago and has not improved.

For the most part, the restaurant offers all the elements of good Thai cuisine: colorful curries, artful presentations, and an intoxicating blend of lemongrass, basil, lime and cilantro. Even better, it is affordable. Dinner entrées cost between $7.95 and $10.95. Lunch curries are $6.75.

The decor—accented with dangling parasols from the ceiling, a faux brick wall and glass-topped linen tables—is airy, colorful and pleasant.

The menu has some surprises. Consider eggplant sautéed with fresh basil leaves, rice noodles in brown gravy with chicken, beef or pork, and “volcano beef,” marinated meat served on a sizzling plate.

Pad Thai, Thailand’s signature dish, is listed alongside pad snow pea, pad cashew nut, pad broccoli and about six other pads. All feature a choice of pork, chicken or beef, a threesome offered with most dishes.

I loved the basil chicken, which offered tender nuggets of fowl that were fragrant with basil leaves and garlic. But the kitchen could have turned up the heat. That was also true of the clean-tasting Tom Yum soup. Although redolent with lemongrass, fresh cilantro and tender straw mushrooms, the soup was only spicy enough to leave a faint tingle in my throat.

I also longed for some burn when it came to the yellow curry, a coconut milk-infused medley of potatoes, scalloped-edged carrots, onions and, in my case, beef strips. (There are also red and green curries, the color of which is determined by the chili paste.) Though the spice factor is relative, chili-heads at Tasti Thai should have more options. Thai-food lovers relish their fix.

Crispy whole fish is another one of my favorite Thai dishes. At Tasti Thai, the slick sauce boasted the perfect blending of sweet, sour and salty ingredients. Unfortunately, the tilapia that night tasted muddy.

I couldn’t help but think that the fish cake listed on the takeout menu would have been better than the shrimp cake on the dining-room menu. The golden fried patty had a nice flavor, but it was a tad rubbery. However, the crunchy peanut and cucumber sauce, which also accompanied the chicken satay skewers, was addictive.

You won’t go home with doggie bags here. Portions are smaller than those in many Asian restaurants. But you will leave with the hope that Tasti Thai will spark the demand for more Thai restaurants in the area.

D

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