Managed to make it over to Thai Fusion at Herndon and Willow for a late lunch yesterday. The restaurant is a nice open space which I can imagine can get pretty loud when it is packed. However, hubby and I were one of four tables filled (we were there about 3pm). They do have a bar area with a flat screen TV and our waiter told us that they have Monday night football specials and the bar gets pretty packed on Monday and on the weekend. I can believe that because they have the only liquor license in that shopping mall area.
But we were not there for the booze, but for the food! We opened our menus and were overwhelmed by all the choices. The have Thai influenced dishes, Lao influenced dishes, and Vietnamese influenced dishes. It was still a little hot for soup, so we focused and decided to try our "basline" dishes for Thai restaurants to see how they compared. I was also in a shrimp mood, so we ordered fried shrimp for the appetizer, the red pad thai, and basil chicken (pad kai prow). Thai Fusion has both red pad thai and brown pad thai. Our server told us there isn't a huge difference, that the red pad thai has chopped peanuts and a red spice akin to paprika in it. The brown pad thai has no peanuts and no red spice. We also ordered two thai teas with lime.
We received the thai tea and both of us didn't really care for it. I was expecting the ususal sweet lime drink with ice tea in it. It was more like iced tea with a red sweet syrup in it which tasted kind of like tamarind paste. Our appetizer came out quickly and were whole shrimp deep fried in won ton wrappers. It came with a sweet and sour sauce with chili oil in it. The shrimp were delicious and I know it really isn't Thai, but I was really in the mood for shrimp.
Next came our entrees and rice. We both asked for sticky rice, but you can also get the traditional steamed rice. I really enjoy sticky rice and these were served in individual rice baskets, really cute. Our pad thai looked and smelled great and really did have a bright red color. The basil chicken had a thin, brown gravy with a ton of basil in it, a good sign.
I tried the red pad thai first and immediately fell in love! The noodles were nice and chewy and the balance of flavor was great. I could taste the fish sauce and lime, but no flavor was too dominant. The bean sprouts were still crunchy, no overcooking here. The peanuts were ground very fine and mixed in with all the other ingredients. There was a lot of sauce for the noodles to absorb, unlike some Thai places where the pad thai seems really dry. This dish was a winner.
The basil chicken was next and I scooped the dish over my sticky rice. Even though I asked for this dish HOT, it was barely medium, but there was plenty of chili paste and oil at the table. After correcting the heat level, the dish improved immensely. The thin brown gravy was salty and sour and mixed with the chicken and sweet basil, the flavors were clean and delightful. Then the heat from the chili paste would really warm up your mouth. Yummy!
Hubby and I really enjoyed our lunch. For two iced teas, an appetizer, and two entrees our lunch was about $33. Not too bad. Our server told us that they have been doing great business for lunch during the week and they are packed on the weekends after about 5pm. They have been open about a month and a half and we experienced no service issues or snafus, but again the restaurant was pretty empty when we were there.
Now hubby and I will be torn when trying to decide where to go for Thai, Thai Fusion or Thai Royal Orchid. Such is the life of a chowhound!
Forgot to mention that we wanted to try one of the curries, but all of them were made with coconut milk. Hubby and I both prefer the more Northern style curries made without coconut milk. Sometimes you will see such curries on menus under Jungle Curry(not really sure why this is). But they do have curries available.
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