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Review: Chanpen Thai Cuisine - Glendale, AZ


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Review: Chanpen Thai Cuisine - Glendale, AZ

Seth Chadwick | Jan 24, 2006 11:12 PM

(Cue soft piano music.)


[Announcer: In a semi-balmy evening in the 5th largest city in America, high atop his platform shoes, one man stands between the a desert city and bad food: Seth Chadwick, Restaurant Detective.]

It was another Saturday in Phoenix and the sun was setting, as it usually does, in the West. I couldn't help but feel a bit sad at the end of the day, knowing that my Saturday night was filled with nothing to do. Little did I know that things would take a drastic change for the worse. It all started when the phone rang.

(Phone rings.)

It was my roommate Dave, and he sounded out of sorts. "You need to help me, Seth. I am deseperate." I could hear it in his voice.

"What is it?" I inquired.

"I need some excellent Thai food!"

I knew Dave meant business and I wasn't about to let a friend down. Besides, he lives in my home and could break things if I failed him. So, I put his fears at ease and told him I would pick him up at 8 PM sharp. "All right," Dave said. "Don't fail me, Seth. I live in your home and can break things."

I turned desperate myself as I scrambled to find an excellent Thai restaurant. In a city like Phoenix, where Taco Bell is considered by many to be El Grando Mexicano Foodo, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I scoured the Slighty Umber Pages looking for clues to a great Thai restaurant. I searched the files. I made a few phone calls. I even checked the Internets. I had just given up hope when the phone rang again.

(Phone rings.)

It was Madge. I worried this might not be good news. Madge was a force to be reckoned with and she could kill any human being with her faux mink stole. "Chadwick. I understand you are looking for some information," she bellowed into the phone. I told her I was looking for a great Thai restaurant. I could hear her quietly sigh before she belted out, "Look for the full moon at 8:45. 51st Avenue and Thunderbird. Look for it, Chadwick, in the Northwest." She hung up before I could inquire what her clues meant.

I knew Madge was a good soul. She had reformed from her life of crime as a woman insisting on taking 12 items through the 10-Items-Or-Less lane at Safeway. I knew she wouldn't fail me.

I picked up Dave at 8 PM sharp, stopping for gasoline along the way. He had a worried look on his face. "Don't worry," I said. "I think I know where to take you for great Thai food."

At 8:45, we arrived at the intersection of 51st Avenue and Thunderbird in Glendale. I took a guess and headed to the northwest corner, because I am a detective and that is what we do. We pulled into the strip mall and I looked to see if there was anything of interest. The mall was old and the asphalt had never been redone since they hid Hoffa's body. But there, right in front of me, was Chanpen Thai Cuisine. Could this be what Madge was pointing me to? Yes, it had to be.

We parked and entered. There was only one other table occupied, and I knew from the looks of things that we were safe. "Don't worry," I said to Dave, "I know how to handle this." We sat down and were handed menus as our server asked for our drink order. Since it was Saturday night, I threw caution to the wind and ordered a Diet Coke ($1.50)... with extra ice (free). We were immediately overwhelmed with a sense of giddy as we looked at the menu. Lots of good choices, I noted, and took out my Acme Detective Notebook to write our choices down.

We decided on two appetizers: the Thai Egg Rolls ($2.00) and the Chicken Sa-Tay ($6.95). For our entrees, we went with the Moo Deang ($7.50) and the Pad Krapoa ($7.50). We also decided to get the Pineapple Fried Rice ($7.50) with Chicken. I then noticed that Madge had indeed steered us to this place because "Chanpen" in Thai means "Full Moon."

I took a survey of the interior, keeping an eye out for any signs of trouble from those often rowdy Glendale types. I noted the restaurant was clean and well kept. It was decorated with some Thai art and trinkets, and it was bright inside with lots of lighting and stark white paint on the walls. Only a few minutes passed before our Thai Egg Rolls arrived.

On a raised shallow dish, two piping hot egg rolls sat side by side with a bit of garnish and a handful of Shrimp Chips. A sweet, red, translucent sauce accompanied the dish for dipping. Dave and I each grabbed one and cut into it with our forks to release some of the heat. The wrappers were crisp and the vegetables inside were crisp, but thoroughly cooked. After a few moments, we dipped them into the sauce and took our first bite. They were quite good and I noticed the look on Dave's face. It was the type of look that one would have when enjoying Cotton Candy at the Fair. The egg roll was a success, the sauce was a nice contrast, and I hoped that we were well on our way to a nice dinner.

Our server arrived with another raised shallow bowl, but this time we were given the Chicken Sa-Tay. Four skewers of grilled marinated chicken sat on top of the dish looking like lollipops waiting to be gobbled up. The server also set down a small dish of peanut sauce and a small dish of marinated cucumbers. We each grabbed a skewer, deskewered the meat and plunked it into the peanut sauce. I noticed the look on Dave's face. It was the kind of look one would have if he won $20 on an Arizona Lottery scratch ticket. I tasted mine and was very happy.

The meat was moist, flavorful, but not stringy or overcooked. The flavor was smoky and the peanut sauce was some of the best I have had in a long time. This dish was a true success and I knew that Madge would appreciate how much we appreciated the appetizers. We cleared our palates with the cucumbers, which were sugary sweet, but had a kick at the end due to the jalepeno pepper resting on top.

"This is great," Dave said. I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew that things would not get broken tonight in my home.

We were just finishing out sa-tay when the first of our entrees arrived. A boat shaped dish was set before us and the scent of the Moo Deang drifted over us like fog in a dreary London street. Moo Deang was a dish of Thai-style BBQ pork, resting on a bed of cabbage and served with slices of cold cucumber.

The Pad Krapoa arrived next in the same boat-shaped dish as the Moo Deang. I really liked the shape of the dishes enough to wish I had a couple for the home. But to do that would require a diversion. A scene. A complete distraction with a brash and bawdy woman being the focus of attention. Where was Madge when I needed her?

The Pad Krapoa was a mixture of beef slices, sweet basil leaves, and Thai chili sauce stir-fried and served with fresh cabbage. The smell was incredible and I couldn't wait for the rice to arrive so that we could dig in. Dave was all smiles and I couldn't help notice that he was now rather subdued. It was the type of subdue-like look one would have if he had just discovered he made his last car payment.

The clock only moved its second hand slightly before the Pineapple Fried Rice arrived. It was served on a colorful fish-shaped dish. The white rice had been stir-fried with thin strips of chicken, pineapple chunks, a few aromatic vegetables and then topped with Cashews, parsley leaves and some cilantro.

Dave and I piled our plates with the three dishes and began to eat as though we were having our last meal while on Death Row. We tried the Moo Deang first. It was as lucious as the lips of your dream partner: full-bodied, slightly sweet, and yummy. Dave agreed that the BBQ pork was a winner and I could tell by the look on his face, as it was the kind of look one would have if they just discovered they had receive seven Chicken McNuggets in the cardboard box instead of six. The cucumber slices were fresh and clean and added a great taste to the pork. A big thumbs up on this dish.

Next, we attacked the Pad Krapoa. It was love at first bite. It was simply amazing. The salty beef combined with the sweet basil and the spicy kick from the chili were phenomenal. Dave took his first bite and his eyes slightly bugged out at the mixture of flavored. The look on his face was priceless. It was the kind of look one would have if ... well, it was a look of satisfaction.

The only thing left to try was the Pineapple Fried Rice. Normally, this dish was served with chicken and shrimp, but Dave has never been fond of seafood ever since that unfortunate accident involving someone named Gerta, a pillbox hat, and a Red Lobster restaurant in Victorville, California. The rice was perfectly cooked and the pineapple gave a nice sweetness to the rice without being overwhelming. The cashews were an excellent touch as they provided a wonderful crunch and a little saltiness. This was quite grand and we both were pleased. Dave even made a yummy sound, which I noted in my Acme Detective Notebook.

We served ourselves seconds of each dish and then enjoyed the last morsels on our plates. We loved every bite, every flavor, every nuance that was on the table that evening. Dave had a very pleasant look on his face. You will have to trust me on that.

I would have thought that we were finished, but Dave had just one last bit of desperation in him and I knew that dessert would kill that desperation like a mongoose on a cobra. We asked the server for a menu for dessert, but she told us that they only had Coconut Ice Cream and Fried Bananas. I suspected she was holding back on me, trying to satiate my cravings for dessert with standard Thai desserts while secretly giving other items to her "favorite customers." Then, I remembered that Stick Sweet Rice with Fresh Mango was out because mangos had been really terrible at the supermarket. So we went with one Coconut Ice Cream ($2.50) and one Fried Bananas ($2.50).

In a flash, the Coconut Ice Cream arrived from the kitchen. It was served in an small ice cream bowl resting on a plate with two spoons. I counted myself lucky as I knew Dave wouldn't have any as he has never like coconut since an unfortunate incident involving someone named Sheldon, a pink feather boa, and a Trader Vic's in Beverly Hills, California. I tried the frosty treat and savored it slowly. It was not the best coconut ice cream I have ever had, but it was very good and the toasted coconut on top was a nice addition.

I was a bit concerned as to why our Fried Bananas were taking so long, but was happy when they did arrive. I thought the hang up might have been because these were four pieces of banana freshly battered and then fried. They arrived fresh from the fryer and were served with a honey sauce. Like the egg rolls, we had to cut them open and wait for them to cool a bit. I tried the first bite and it was delicious. The bananas were not overly ripe and the batter was tempura-like. The dessert was light, but the flavors were excellent. Dave took a bite at well and was very pleased at the fritters. I topped my second bite with the honey sauce and it was very good as well, although the honey slightly overpowered the banana taste.

We finished our bananas and waited for our bill. As we waited for our bill, I excused myself to go to visit the facilities. As I approached said facilities, I was taken aback by what I saw. Painted on the men's room door was the word "Amigos." On the women's door was the word "Amigas." Was this code? Was this restaurant actually a front for a noted crime syndicate with ties to Mexico? My heart fluttered as I thought about the fame I could reap by bringing down one of the largest sources of organized crime in Phoenix.

Alas, it was just that Chanpen had taken over a space that once housed a Mexican food restaurant.

I returned to the table and I our bill arrived. The total including tax was $42.29. It was a stellar bargain for the amount of food we consumed. The kind of bargain that makes you worry you might end up for doing hard time for theft. Service at Chanpen was attentive and fast. Dave had no complaints and neither did I.

We left the restaurant and returned back to the office where Dave thanked me profusely. "Seth," he said. "You did it. You found me a great Thai restaurant in the Phoenix area. I owe you one, buddy." He shook my hand and opened the door to leave, turning just before he exited. "Oh!" he exclaimed. "I forgot to mention that I accidentally broke the vase in the living room. Good night." He then left.

(Phone rings.)

I answered the phone hoping it would take my mind off the broken vase. It was Madge. "Chadwick! Did you like it?"

"I loved it, Madge. Thank you. You are one classy dame."

"Thanks, Chadwick. But you owe me for this. Big time." She slammed down the phone and I looked out the office window overlooking the beautiful brick wall which my window faced.

"I know, Madge. I know."

[Announcer: In a semi-balmy evening in the 5th largest city in America, high atop his platform shoes, one man stands between the a desert city and bad food: Seth Chadwick, Restaurant Detective.]


(Piano music fades.)

Chanpen Thai Cuisine
13828 North 51st Avenue (at Thunderbird)
Glendale, AZ 85306
Dress: Casual



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