Amongst all other meals lately I haven't been able to squeeze in a proper sit down Thai version despite a hankering to do so. Curiosity was peeked when I saw that 'Thai Food Express'(also named 'Thai Food Express-Rice N' Noodles') is now operated by a family member of those who have Som Siam in Guilford and Old Saybrook(apparently this owner is a sister of Linda, who owns both SS's). If memory serves me correctly there was another Thai spot here previously but the Advocate article below indicates 'TFE' opening some time around May '09. Perhaps another case of a different restaurant assuming a spot and many including myself not knowing?
Either way, I figured to try them while passing through even though my first attempt last weekend was delayed. Yep, CT "weather wimps" forced many restaurants to close early. Crazed shoppers chose to take the last Saturday before Christmas that's normally reserved for trampling big-box menageries and massacring malls to instead focus on overrunning the usual grocery chain slop-stops to prepare for a storm that arrived MANY hours later than what was predicted. You weren't one of "them" were you? ;)
Much like any take-out focused establishment that serves food probably best enjoyed ASAP after preparation there were higher and lower points. They do have a few tables and I do not want to discourage what could be otherwise be a good dining experience but I will have to see if the heating situation is improved to do this(see article). With that said owner and her server/customer helper were very polite and extremely kind.
Among the several items that I took away, I began with their starters of 'Tom Yum Soup'($3.25), 'Crispy Spring Rolls'($3.00), and 'Waterfall Salad'($5.95). I felt the salad wasn't entirely as described("Sliced charcoal-grilled steak with lime juice, chilies, roasted rice powder, and mint leaves") as the mixed greens that were served had little(if any?) mint and noticeably scant amounts of rice powder. The beef was tender and flavorful but I would opt for trying the special 'Papaya Salad' listed that night my next time out. The 'Spring Rolls' were good enough in that I would try one of two house variations of rolls offered that night as well on a return visit. Hoping the 'Tom Yum' spicy shrimp soup was as good as what DonShirer described having at Som Siam East, I at least saw the ingredients offering at what he enjoyed in his sit down lunch posted on that restaurant's thread. With what would be a recurring basis of variation, I found the "warning peppers" listed on the menu to not be accurate. Both salad and soup had two-pepper symbols but neither was particularly spicy so be sure to specify if you are expecting a little tongue-tingling as I was. As to the prices, yes it is a different creature in being primarily take-out but the lower prices compared to other sit-down equivalents allowed much more sampling at 'TFE'.
Among the five sections of the menu there are: 1) Six different 'Curry' preparations with Rice, 2) Over a dozen different 'Stir-Fry' preparations with Rice, 3) Five different 'Fried Rice' preparations, 4) Four different 'Stir Fry Noodles' preparations, and 5) Eight different 'Noodles in Soup' preparations. They are priced at either $6.95(your choice of Chicken, Beef, Pork, Vegetable, or Tofu) or $7.95(your choice of Shrimp, Squid, or Duck). Within each section there are stand-alone dishes with specific ingredients and with the noodle dishes there are choices of the actual noodle themselves: Rice, Egg, Udon, Clear, Vermicelli, and 'Mama'(Thai egg).
In keeping with touching upon many options I had four main dishes : 'Red Curry' prepared with Duck(red curry sauce with bamboo shoots,carrots, pineapple, zucchini, and basil), 'Running Lamb'(lamb cube stir-fried with Thai herbs in curry sauce...also available with a hot basil sauce), 'Pad Prik King' with Crispy Pork(described as "long bean and prik king sauce") and 'Drunken Noodles' with Squid(spicy pan fried flat rice noodles with fresh vegetables, fresh chilies, egg, and hot basil). They handled the duck quite well where I could see never ordering that "other fowl"(chicken really has to strike me in a unique preparation for me to bother at all) and the lamb was done rather nicely too but with these dishes their two-pepper and especially three-pepper symbol spiciness for the latter didn't register on this guy's palate. The 'Pad Prik King' was a mildly zesty citrusy sauce with the best variety of veggies(but no "long beans" unless I'm just totally lost) and the 'Drunken Noodles' had me "intoxicated" with nicely prepared and attractively scored large pieces of squid.
Overall with what I ordered and with now having better ideas of what I could probably most enjoy(plus the reasonably priced menu and convenient location), I will check out 'TFE' on another night when "take-out with a twist" is in order. With another visit I can then tell if they'll join 'Taqueria Mexico'(lingua, cabeza, and tripe oh my!) as good eats when driving the Chow-mobile through "Wallyworld".
New Haven Advocate, Thai Food Express-11/09:
Did you ever say "I don't want to go to Wallyworld" or "Wally World is overrated"?:
Thai Food Express
628 S Colony Rd Ste A, Wallingford, CT 06492