Spent Sunday in Eugene. Have been on a Thai binge and had heard goog things about Chao Pra Ya just off Sixth on Adams, so decided to give it a try.
Very goood. It would hold its own in Portland, at least. On first visit (yep, there's a second visit to come later), my friend and I shared the miang kum (woohoo! miang kum) and the pork larb. Both were excellent. It'd be nice if they used betel leaves instead of spinach for the miang kum, but they were quite tasty. You do get to construct them yourself, which is nice. The pork larb had lots of nicely balanced flavor.
He got the panang curry with chicken. I got the green curry with beef. He got his hot (there's also an extra hot) and I got everything medium after my experience at Cha Ba Thai recently. The panang came with green beans and the chicken. The green curry came with the usual variety of vegetables, including bamboo shoots and eggplant (chinese, not Thai, unfortunately, because I much prefer Thai eggplant). Both were decent, though we agreed the green was better. As for the curries, I don't think they're quite on par with the best Portland places, but they were good, nice and flavorful. The meats had the slight gummy texture that's too common in Asian restaurants, imo. The portions were also maybe a bit small, though not unfair. They do go light on the meat.
btw, when they say hot, they mean it. I can handle heat (at least in my mouth, later on is another issue), but I wouldn't want to get anything hot there. Extra hot? Only if you're a masochist or from Southern Asia.
All dishes were $7.95. They have an extensive menu which is nice and a lot of house specials plus daily specials. The larb and miang kum are probably better for what they are than the curries, but everything was good.
On our second visit, we shared the papaya salad ($6.95) and the tom kha ($6.95), both medium spicy. My friend also ordered the duck curry ($10.95), a house special. The papaya salad was probably the worst of the dishes for what it was that we had. The green papaya was decently crunchy, but there were few peanuts and the "dressing" was probably a little one-note. Also a small portion for that sort of thing and the price. The tom kha was better. I don't order it that often, though, so I'm not the best judge, but I liked it, a nice contrast between the coconut milk and the lime with several other Thai flavors working in balance in the background. The duck curry was decent, although again, the curries didn't shine. There was lots of pineapple and duck in it, although I prefer the duck skin crispier. The portion size overall was about the same as earlier.
We got a dessert, too, the second time. They have a fried bananas and coconut ice cream dessert. The bananas are slices fried in little won ton wrappers and drizzled with honey. There are several set around a couple small scoops of ice cream. The ice cream was mediocre, but the won tons were tasty. They did need a little more honey, though. It was also kind of a small portion for the $5 (I think) price tag.
The service was a bit sloppier on our second visit. They don't have many people working the tables (and they might all be family) and the place was jammed full with even a waiting list. They have an extra back room that we got into, but it wasn't too often we saw our waitress. Luckily I had asked for a pitcher of water thinking it might be the case. It was still adequate service, I guess, but inattentive. But hey, it's Thai food. And they really are very nice.
It should also be noted that they have lunch specials starting at $5.95. Essentially they cut $2 off several of the more common choices.
A good place overall.
After our dessert on our second visit we decided to hit Ring of Fire for more dessert. They have an excellent fried bananas and coconut ice cream dessert that's fabulous. I've only ever had one comparable -- at Abacus in Dallas, TX. Normally it comes with wonderful tempura fried banans drizzled with honey around a scoop or two of house made coconut ice cream. However, they were out of bananas. Crap! Unfortunately we had already ordered some food just to compare, a green curry with beef. It was okay, not as good as Chao Pra Ya, though. They put a lot more "stuff" in it, like zucchini and peppers, but the base flavor wasn't as good. The portion is larger, but it's also $11. I like Ring of Fire a lot. But it's important to note they're in the Typhoon school of Thai food. They're not going for authenticity at all and sometimes I think quality is either takes a back seat to presentation or that they are trying to meet certain western expections, hence the lots of stuff, lots of fish and shrimp dishes, etc. I do still love their yellow curry with apples. Great combination. And they have an excellent mussaman (matsaman, as they call it), though I have a feeling it's not very authentic. They always have very good specials that are also pretty high priced. But I would certainly choose them over Chao Pra Ya or most any other Asian restaurant in Eugene for a date. It's a very nice place with linen napkins, nice plates, silverware, and glasses. They have a wine list and very professional service. Also, their coconut ice cream is fantastic. I wish they had a damned banana. My friend and I were tempted to go and buy a frickin' banana. Probably should have. But at least we got some quality coconut ice cream.
Believe it or not, we ate again this day. Across, or near, Chao Pra Ya is Taqueria Lupita which I had heard about. I take every opportunity to try new taquerias. This one was good. We split four tacos: carne asada, cabeza, al pastor, carnitas. Each was $1, though a little smaller than most places, like 3 peso tacos in Mexico. The carne asada and cabeza were very good. The carnitas and al pastor were passable, decent, but nothing special (each needed some salt, eg, to kick up the flavors). The salsas are decent there, though nothing special. They also had a couple soups, menudo and birria, I think.
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