Titaya's Thai Cuisine
Tastes of Thailand in Central Texas
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Oct. 9, 2009
Titaya's Thai Cuisine5501 N. Lamar Ste. C-101, 458-1792
Monday-Friday, 11am-3pm, 5-10pm; Saturday-Sunday, noon-10pm
Titaya's resides in the old Fortune Pho 75 location, just south of Koenig, on the east side of Lamar. Open for four years, the restaurant has a loyal following of fans who love the fare. Owner Titaya is another alum of Thai Passion, and the menu definitely reflects her previous involvement there (what is it they say about imitation and flattery?). We began our meal here with pork larb ($9.95), a minced-meat salad served on a bed of lettuce with a few cucumber slices. What is normally very vibrantly tart and spicy, aromatic, and garnished with fresh mint and cilantro instead is sweet, tame, and mintless here. It would probably be unrecognizable to a Lao or Isaan native.
Tom kha ($3.50, bowl; $8, firepot) is headed in the right direction, but it needs less chicken stock and more coconut cream, more lime leaf and lemongrass, more chile, more lime. Unless we miss our educated guess, frozen pulled chicken meat rather than fresh meat graced our bowl. The pad thai ($6.50, lunch; $7.95, dinner) has little of the charred kiss of the wok, uses pulled chicken meat, and has no egg or tofu that we could find. The tamarind quota had been raised, but overall, it is a fairly boring version of what can be a decent dish.
A beef green curry ($6.50, lunch; $8.95, dinner) is disappointing. What should be a complex spicy flavor profile, compounded by the richness of coconut milk, is mostly bell-pepper slices, mixed with some Japanese eggplant, zucchini, onion, bamboo shoots, and thin beef slices. It needs more of everything, especially coconut milk and beef, and zero bell pepper. Bell peppers are used here in the States as inexpensive and crunchy vegetable filler; in Thailand they're used only in Chinese or Italian food.
We remember liking Titaya's flavors several years back, but perhaps the desire to produce a $6.50 lunch special should be reconsidered. Any of her numerous fans would gladly pay a dollar more for her original fare.