Lord knows I've complained bitterly about the lack of good Asian food in Athens, so I feel obligated to write about our recent visit to Cozy Yum Yum, a little Thai restaurant located downtown on Jackson St., between Clayton and Broad. The space is cozy, indeed, and the service is great.
One visit isn't enough for a thorough write-up, of course, but we highly recommend the place. Everything is made from scratch, but that doesn't mean everything is really tasty. They have some problems with the mostly non-Thai items on the appetizer menu, probably having to do with some degree of non-familiarity with non-Thai cooking. We had some Chinese-style steamed chicken dumplings that were completely underwhelming, and some skinny little egg-rolls that were okay when wrapped up in the lettuce and dipped in the sweet sauce, but nothing to order again.
On the other hand, the distinctively Thai dishes were amazing, some of the best we've ever had. We ordered a Thai-style ceviche dish with calamari and numerous julienned veggies and peppers, a nice-sized salad, really, and very Thai in flavor profile: a bit spicy, a bit sweet, crunchy and fresh and absolutely delicious.
Our other entree was Pad Thai, one of my all-time favorite dishes. Good lord, that blew us away. By the time we had finished our apps, we had established a nice rapport with the waitress, a Thai woman, and she quickly realized that we actually enjoy Thai food, and didn't need it dumbed down or even substituted with non-Thai dishes. She asked if we wanted the Pad Thai "spicy", and we said yes, and lordy it had a kick to it. I've only recently had "real" Pad Thai for the first time, and this measured up to the best we've had. Incredible complexity and balancing of flavors, perfectly cooked, bold and subtle at the same time, with that nice "wok breath" smokiness you only get from a skilled wok practitioner and some serious BTUs.
Anyway, eat here. I'd advise on ignoring the apps menu, as it seems to be a sop to dull Southern palates and unadventurous souls. And be sure to let the waitress know you want "real" Thai food, as they seem scared to serve the pure, unadulterated thing to most of their customers. I think "medium spicy" is how our waitress described our squid salad and Pad Thai. Next time we try one of the curries and one of the Yum salads.
The chef is also Thai, and seems to risk being overwhelmed at times by even small pops in business, but she knows her native cuisine. We chatted with her for a bit after our meal, and she is delightful. I wonder if she'll try to train up an assistant if things get busier.
We'll be back again and again.
Please, Athens: we've finally got some real Asian food in this town, and it's really, really good. Please please please do not neglect to eat the good stuff. Walk away from all that awful "Amerinese" faux-Chinese food, leave behind those little "Thai Restaurant" impostors, and get some of the good stuff. If you've never had real Thai food, you're in for a wonderful surprise.
And yes, your Pad Thai will be a light-brown in color, as Pad Thai is supposed to be. I have no idea how all those other "Thai Restaurants" make their Pad Thai bright pink and flavorless, but it ain't supposed to be pink and flavorless. Just an FYI.