Thai Thai

The Mandarin Gallery is still emerging from the dust of construction and so, walking its halls can feel a bit odd—sort of like driving a car that was taken off the assembly line a little too early. This makes Thai Thai all the more welcome. Stepping into its beautifully designed interior is like ducking under an awning in the rain—it provides sweet relief. The furnishings here make bold use of gem-like tones—perhaps best exhibited in the cubby holes full of turquoise, wine, and golden colored silk pillows. A giant white leather chair in the entry way gets you ready for some of the other oversized furniture in the room—all dressed in vibrant soft fabrics. The generous use of white keeps things from getting overwhelming, and the overall impression is one of light sophistication. It’s a bit like a tea room where you might catch Johnny Depp delving into his next character study. While Thai Thai is certainly a beauty to look at, you’re coming here for the food, right? So what about it? Well, our starter was as attractive to look at as the décor. It was the traditional Mieng Kham—betel leaves filled with a variety of Thai ingredients like peanuts, tiny chopped limes, chilies and coconut. Only here, they put the super fresh fixings into a lotus petal first and then set that on the betel leaf—a striking presentation. Topping the creations with the sweet fish-sauce-based paste, rolling them up, and popping them into our mouths revealed a lovely burst of freshness; it was the essence of Thai food in one bite—sweet, fishy, fiery, sour and earthy all at once. Figuring the best way to evaluate a Thai restaurant was to stick to the classics, we moved on to a tom kah gai soup which perfectly cut the richness of the coconut milk broth with a bright, fresh flash of lime. For mains we tried the red curry chicken and spicy chicken with basil leaves. The former was among the best curries we’ve ever had—seesawing between hot tingle and sweet relief. The latter had two chili graphics next to it on the menu (designated as “slightly volcanic”) and it was an apt description—definitely not tourist Thai. Dessert was another melodious mélange—taro balls in sweet coconut milk. A sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds added a strangely compelling grilled flavor to the dish. The “sawasdee ka” greeting from the staff was delightful, as were they: Smiley, always on hand, and glad to serve us heaping portions of either white or—get this—brown rice–a welcome, healthy rarity in the local restaurant scene. Go now before the crowds arrive.