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Grand Ave Thai (Oakland) - disappointing

Marc Wallace | Jun 12, 200402:36 PM

A friend arrived unexpectedly, no warning, and we had to take him out to dinner -- so we offered a couple of choices within walking distance. He chose to try out the new (month old) Thai place on Grand near Perkins. This was great, as I had wanted to try it for a while. If it turned out phenomenal, we could easily walk the four blocks every week!

The menu was the standard Thai menu, so we ordered a soup, a larb, a curry, and a fry dish for the three of us. It was only after the first dish arrived that I realized the waitress had not followed the Standard Thai Waiter Protocol, asking us "how hot" or "how spicy". I would have assumed it would default to medium, but apparently the default here is "hold the chiles".

Tom kha gai: okay, but far too much lemongrass -- and, as mentioned, not even a hint of heat. Kind of like warm lemon coconut milk with bits of stuff. I give it an "okay" mostly because soups always get an extra point or two in my book, but my companions said "feh".

Larb moo: very well seasoned, but again with no spiciness. I asked, but apparently it was too late to alter all but the last dish. There was also almost no lettuce, which seems a sin, given how inexpensive it is (and how small a larb is without it). So this was more like a ground pork mixture. If they got lettuce and hot peppers, this could be a spectacular dish.

At this point the rice came out. Not served in the Standard Thai Silver Vessel, but in... corningware. The small variety. This was incongruous, as everything else from water to soup ladle favoured presentation over utility.

Musaman beef: very tasty, but *incredibly* small portions. The entire dish fit in what I consider a cereal bowl (although a very nice looking one), so we each had only a couple spoonfuls. Good thing we ordered extra food! This one did have a hint of heat, but barely that. A curry just isn't a curry if your eyes don't water.

Pad king gai: just okay. Again, a very small portion, but presented nicely. The "brown bean sauce" wasn't beany at all, and the ginger was not to be found, but the extra food was welcome.

Prices were normal, $6-8 per item (whether appetizer or main dish, although some seafood dishes go up to $13).

I will admit: it could be my fault for not loudly asserting my wish for spiciness. But this is supposedly a transplant of Chao Thai, which was around for at least a decade. You would think they would know to ask, as every other Thai restaurant does.

So: tiny portions, zero spiciness (see disclaimer, and a few glitches that might get fixed as they get their sea(food) legs.

But if you're looking for a place to take relatives whose only exposure to Oriental food is eating egg rolls with their burgers at Lana's Chinese/American Cafe, this might be a good spot for you -- good flavors with no spiciness. But I'm not going to rush back.

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