At the risk of offending folks for the umpteenth time, I’ll start by saying that the restaurants, for miles, around Lakeside Mall all are lame, save for La Saj, and maybe Tivoli Pizza and some likable Italian American joints. This is why I was so surprised by Eat Thai, a small strip mall place on Schoenherr, just a quarter mile south of Lakeside Mall. The adage of, “You know an Asian place is good when you see a bunch of Asian customers inside,” just doesn’t apply, when you’re talking the Utica area. But, Stay Calm and forge ahead, as their restaurant uniform logos suggest.
If I correctly understand things, the place is run by a Thai family who recently moved here from Washington state. They seem to be upper class, ethnic Chinese types from Bangkok. (Over the centuries, Chinese spread throughout SE Asia—Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc., and kind of monopolized power, much to the resentment/backlash of indigenous peeps). Anyway, my point is that this family knows what are refined tastes, and they are not in the restaurant business for survival, but rather out of a passion for food. This isn’t to say there is much in the way of exotic dishes on offer, or authentically harsh street-stand foods such as fish stomachs, but they do the familiar dishes EXQUISITELY. If nothing else, let’s give them points for actually being from Thailand, in contrast to most Thai resto owners around town.
Let me first get past a little business here. There seems (in my mind) to be about only two food service companies in town for Asian restaurants, and one has cheap trash for meat (you know what I’m talking about), and the other has okay beef, chicken and pork. Eat Thai sources from the latter. Katoi Corktown may source meats from specific farms or what have you, but Eat Thai isn’t the kind of place that goes quite that far, and Eat Thai’s reasonable prices reflect this.
One area, but not the primary area, where Eat Thai sets themselves apart from most other Thai places in town, is with fresh chopped vegetables, as opposed to prepackaged veggies, which were cleaned and chopped a week prior. An important touch.
Where Eat Thai really excels, simply, is that their flavors all are virtually perfect. Much in the curries (sure, not every fixing in their curry) is prepared in-house…or, if it is not, then I want to know from where they get their prepared mixes! It’s “eat drips off the table,” good. My favorite from the first visit was their Massaman curry. The red curry was delicious too, even if not perfect.
I chose medium spicy, which was respectably hot, but I was embarrassed to then learn that medium represents only a 2 on their 5 (hottest) point scale. I must be getting soft. I also had the larb or laap (depending on the romanization of the characters), which was fantastically aromatic and fresh, and didn’t do a skip-out on the essential, roasted rice powder.
For my kid, I was disappointed at first glance, by how few goodies were in the Old Time Noodles (kuay-tiew kua) that he ordered. But, when I tasted this carb bomb I realized that it really is all about the noodles. Artistry!
I should point out a couple things that might be viewed as negatives. While jasmine rice is an ingredient in some of the recipes, the rice served (at least on the night I was there) as a side with the curries, etc., was basic Chinese rice. I’m not saying it is wrong, I’m just saying that I, and perhaps some of you, would have been imagining jasmine rice.
Also, in full disclosure, the curries contain a stunning quantity of oil. It is beautiful, deep red oil. Kind of looks like that tropical super-food, red palm oil stuff, but surely it can’t be. Must be vegetable oil imbued with tremendous quantities of chile extract. Just try not to think about the calories. Think about baseball or something.
The Isaan sausage and pad thai on their Facebook page sure look tasty, too. Please give this place the taste test that they’re working so hard to earn. If you see some fool there this month raving over his first go-around with Eat Thai’s Isaan sausage and pad thai, please say Hi to me.
by Amy Schulman | As Americans hunker down in their homes to practice social distancing, you may be wondering how you...
by Brittany Loggins | The change of seasons, no matter what else is going on, always makes us want to freshen things up...
by James Park | Spicy silken tofu soup, often called soondubu jjigae, is one of the most beloved soups in Korean cuisine...
by Hana Asbrink | Welcome to Chowhound's Table Talk podcast, where Executive Editor Hana Asbrink chats with some of...