Last week my eating club went to King and I on South Grand for Thai food. This large restaurant has an eclectic mix of decorating styles, ranging from early Kmart to recent XXXX County paint colors (think mauve and forest Green). We did have a fun-looking table that was set in a built-in bench box, but no one was able to get in and out of it gracefully and those sitting on the far side were constantly having to aid the server in moving plates and drinks. Alcoholic drinks are available, and the table ordered a dacquiri (which was so awful that it was immediately sent back) and a few Singha (Thai) beers.
The menu did have good descriptions of the foods. We started off with many appetizers. Chicken satay was large flat chunks of yellow-marinaded chicken which were served with a tame peanut sauce, and a salad of cucumbers and red onions. It was a boring rendition of what I have come to love at other Thai restaurants. Hot and sour soup was not too spicy, with tofu, pork, mushrooms, bamboo and green onions. It was different from typical hot and sour, being neither hot not sour. Crab rangoons were standard with very little crab and typical mustard/sweet sauce on the side. Wonton soup was described as best ever - it was not overwhelmingly salty and the interior wonton pork texture was very good. Mee Krob, a crispy fried noodle dish with tofu and little shrimps was sweet, almost like a dessert. It was worth having. Tempura vegetables were cut indelicately large but seemed more "manly" than the typical Japanese version.
Entrees were a bit better than most of the appetizers. Vegetable fried rice was excellent - not greasy, rice lightly coated in not too salty sauce, with lightly cooked broccoli, carrots, snow peas and baby corn. Ginger chicken was delicious: clean hunks of chicken in a lively sauce with tangy mushrooms. Yellow curry chicken was spicy, as ordered. Again, no gristle on the chicken really added to the pleasure of the dish. Spicy fried rice with pork, chicken, beef and shrimp was nose-runningly spicy and had plenty of meat. The sauce was not greasy and the peppers and mushrooms were also tasty. The King and I special was noodles, chicken, squid, snowpeas, shrimp, egg and carrot in a great tasty light sauce. Pad Thai snow peas were okay. The dish was not generally distinguishable from anything you can get at a Chinese restaurant. Finally, spicy beef had the eater in eye-watering, snuffling glory, as it was ordered very hot and arrived just so. Besides flat chunks of beef, it had wide noodles, red pepper and onion. A huge bowl of rice was served communally for the table, a practice which I do not approve of, since the heat leaks out of the rice immediately.
No one ordered dessert. The bill came, and we were not charged service. We did tip lavishly and I hope the nice people serving water so quicky were rewarded. The most frustrating thing was the blandness of the food unless it was ordered VERY HOT. All in all, I prefer the smaller Thai places in the Loop area. The dishes are far more original and nothing is bland. Even the Blue Elephant, which is more expensive than the Loop area places, is worth it because of the atmosphere. KIng and I is too expensive for the food and the experience. Their bathroom is spotless, though. . .