Work on Friday was simply awful. It was one of those days that sucks the life out of you and while you are dying to get out of the workplace to drown your sorrows in a gin and tonic or other beverage of choice, the clock just seems to come to a halt. It finally did reach 5 PM and I headed out the door relishing in the fact that it was now, officially, the weekend.
Having had a bad day, I needed the comfort of a friend that I could vent to. In stepped Madge. She suggested we have our heart-to-heart over dinner and made it clear that she wanted Thai food for dinner. That was fine with me but I wanted to try someplace that wasn't in my normal Thai rotation of Wild Thaiger or Thai Lhana. After some investigation, we decided on the Mint Thai Cafe in Gilbert.
We made our trek to the East Valley and found the restaurant in a strip mall on Gilbert Road right next to a day spa. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot and we entered the restaurant. I was a little concerned at first because there was no one in the restaurant until I realized that the place is actually two suites with part of an interior wall removed. The second suite was quite full of diners enjoying their meals.
We were offered a table for two in the second suite or a booth that seats four in the first suite area. We opted for the latter for the space and the privacy.
We were given menus and large glasses of water. I was pleased about the water because it was served in a large, quart-sized glass with plenty of ice. I will forever never understand why restaurants give you 6 or 8 ounce glasses of water, particularly in the summer. Odd.
Anyway, we reviewed the menu and saw lots of the standards plus a few surprises. After some discussion, we each decided on an appetizer, a main course and dessert. Madge wanted the Fried Wontons ($3.95) and although they are not authentically Thai, I love wontons so all was good. Madge also wanted to try the Sah-tay ($6.95). For the main dishes, we agreed upon the Spicy Mint Pork ($8.95) and the Sizzling Beef ($9.95). We also ordered two Diet Cokes.
The wontons arrived first and they were very different than I expected. They were fairly large triangles that were flat on the ends and puffy in the middle where the pork mixture resided. They were crispy and also somewhat chewy and the filling was good. The sauce that accompanied the wontons was your standardy plum sauce. There was nothing special about these wontons, but they were decent and I had no complaints.
Next up was the Sah-Tay, five skewers of marinated chicken that has been grilled and was being served with peanut sauce, cucumber and onion salad and toast points. The chicken was perfectly cooked and was exceptionally moist. The meat was tender and had a wonderful taste from the combination of the marinade and the grilling. The peanut sauce was a surprise. Instead of the standard tan, thin sauce with bits of peanut, this was more like a peanut chutney (for lack of a better description) and had the consistency of apple butter. The taste was spot on and in conjunction with the chicken, this was a hit with both Madge and myself. The cucumber salad was sweet and fresh. The toast points were, well, toast points.
We had our drinks refreshed (yay! for the large glasses for the soda as well) and waited a bit before our first entree arrived. The scent of the dish arrived at our table before the plate did and we were salivating immediately. The Spicy Mint Pork was served bubbling hot and the slices of pork were mixed in with a wonderful mixture of garlic, chili sauce, mint leaves and jalapenos. Also in the dish was slices of onions and yellow peppers. Accompanying the dish was a covered bowl of white rice. We tasted the pork and it was grand. Sweet, spicy, savory, exceptional. It was a perfect combination of flavors and had a nice kick to it. The white rice was also good in that the rice was firm and yet it was still slightly sticky and a great companion to the pork.
We each had a serving the pork when our Sizzling Beef arrived. As the menu had warned us, it was served tableside and with great flair started sizzling as the bowl of beef and veggies were slid onto a searing hot cast iron skillet. After the sizzling had died down, we were presented the dish on our table. Again, the aroma was intoxicating. Before us was a plate of spinach with slices of beef on top and some of the peanut sauce drizzled over it. Almonds, cucumbers and almonds adorned the dish.
I dove into the beef and after finishing my first bite, I realized that the dish only rated a "good" from Madge and myself. The sizzling hype was better than the beef. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, but it wasn't spectacular. The taste was earthy and I loved all the components, but it simply didn't seem to be outstanding when they were served together. I think the issue was the overwhelming spinach flavor. I love spinach, but when all you taste is spinach in a beef dish, it isn't going to be great. Still, it was good and we had no problems finishing off the beef and the pork.
We left very little on our plates or on the entree dishes, but we still had some room for dessert. What caught my eye was the Sweet Sticky Rice ($3.25). This seemed to be something that Madge wanted as well, but opted to have the mango with it ($3.95). A few minutes later, we were presented with our desserts. The taste of the rice was excellent. Sticky to the end and very sweet, I loved the fact that it was warmed and chewy. Madge liked her rice as well, but determined that she prefers mango in chutney form than just as a stand alone fruit.
We finished our desserts, polished off the last of our beverages and paid our bills. The total, including tax, was $43.71. We thought it was a good value for what we got and the freshness of the ingredients. Service was very good and they allowed us to chat away the evening with very few interruptions.
I really liked the Mint Thai Cafe. If there was a downside, I would say it was the atmosphere, which was spartan. Madge called it utilitarian. I think the best way to describe it would be to say that is certainly did not go out of its way to keep you from remembering that you were in a strip mall. This did not affect our meals at all and would not be any obstacle in keep me from returning.
I enjoyed the Mint Thai Cafe and would return again with no hesitation. Madge concurred, although next time I think she would want a bit lighter dinner conversation.
Mint Thai Cafe
1111 North Gilbert Road
Gilbert, AZ 85234