Last night we tried Satara Thai in Arrowhead. I had bought a gift certificate for it from Restaurant.Com during their $25 gift cert for $2 sale back in October. They bill themselves as being a higher-end Thai place than normal and their prices reflect that. The quality of the food, however, does not. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
They are located in the restaurant row around 83rd Ave and Bell. They are set back from 83rd Ave south of Bell and are a bit hard to find. We eventually found them and entered. The space is very modern, with black-painted walls, a large section of waterfall glass, wine racks, and a stained glass window. It looks like they also have a patio in the back, but it was hard to see it after dark.
We were seated in the dining room and it was just under 1/3 full. It's not a huge space. We were given menus and wine lists to look over. The prices are almost shockingly high for a Thai restaurant. Tom Kha Gai is $14 and only in a bowl. Noodle dishes range from $13 to $17, salads $10 to $14, entrees $13 to $16, and even the fried rice dishes were $13 to $17.
We eventually settled on an order of chicken satay ($8.95), fried rice with crispy beef and basil ($12.95) for Tara, and musamun gai (chicken in a coconut milk, red curry sauce) ($14.95) for me.
We ordered the satay before we'd decided on our entrees, but it still took a while for it to come out. When it arrived, it was four large pieces of chicken on skewers, with small bowls of peanuts sauce and a sweet/spicy sauce. We each took a piece and dug in. Or tried to. I noticed I had a hard time cutting it. I turned my piece over, and it was solid black on the bottom. I checked the other three pieces, and all were the same. Burnt. For $9, this was unacceptable. We're sure it was no fluke that all the pieces had the nicely grilled side up when it was brought out. This dish should never have been put on our table. Tara said she wouldn't serve something like this at home. I shaved off the burnt bottom and the meat wasn't bad. A bit dried out, as you'd expect. The peanut sauce was really good, but didn't save the dish as a whole. I even turned all the meat I'd cut off so the black side was up, but the server made no mention of it when she took our plates away.
A little while later, our entrees came out. Tara's fried rice had a nice flavor, but the bits of beef seemed small to me. Overall she liked it, but felt it definitely wasn't worth $13.
My chicken was a bit aggravating. The square white plate had a colorful orange sauce covering the chicken, potatoes, carrots, and onions, with whole peanuts sprinkled over the top. The peanuts weren't mentioned on the menu, and I'm glad that while I can't eat them, I'm not actually allergic to them. I was able to eat around them fine. I noticed that the once piece of chicken I could see was a whole drumstick. As I dug in, I realized that ALL the chicken was in drumstick form, as three of them were lined up on the plate. This irritated me, as I felt really ripped off paying $15 for three drumsticks and some paper-thin vegetables. I got it mild and there was some heat to it, but nothing near the full flavors that good Thai and the price should warrant.
Service was ok. For the early part of our meal, a waiter came by, bringing us drinks and checking a few times to see if we were ready to order yet. When we were finally ready, we had to wait and eventually the waitress came over and took care of us for the rest of the meal. This seemed odd, as the waiter was still servicing other tables.
Satara serves their glasses of water with thin slices of cucumber in them. They said it gives them a crisper flavor. To me, it tasted like cucumber water. I like cucumber well enough, but not in my water.
Overall, we found Satara very over-priced and not worth the extra money compared to the alternatives. The burnt satay was completely unacceptable for nearly $10. The other items were good, but certainly nothing special. The bill came to $40, but with our gift certificate, it came to $15 plus tip. I would feel taken advantage of if I had actually paid full price for the meal. Osha, Thai House, Thai Basil, and Thai Pan are much better choices and far better deals.
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