Tastes of Thailand in Central Texas
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Oct. 9, 2009
Exotic Thai11220 N. Lamar #306, 719-4300
Monday-Friday, 11am-2:30pm, 4:30-10pm; Saturday, noon-10pm; Sunday, closed
Owner Lin Pai has been on board for about a month, having bought Exotic Thai from the founding owners. The space is bright and modern and sits at the west end of a strip on the southwest corner of Braker and Lamar, a stone's throw from the big Asian shopping center anchored by MT Supermarket. We started with a pork larb ($7.50), which is everything it should be: The salty, tart, spicy dressing is bound by nutty roasted rice powder, brightened by mint and cilantro; intense minced pork and shallots at their finest. On the table sits the standard condiment grouping, our favorite being the fish sauce with minced Thai chiles.
The tom kha, or coconut-galangal soup, ($4, bowl; $7.50, firepot) is not as thick as it we had hoped it would be, with perhaps a tad too much chicken stock, but the chicken meat is tender and fresh, accented with straw mushrooms, pieces of lime leaf and lemongrass, and lime juice and chile. You could taste the zippy galangal, namesake of the dish. Exotic Thai's pad thai ($7) is fairly complex, with tofu, egg, fresh chicken, scallions, and onion, boosted with a nice tamarind and lime layer. Cilantro, fresh sprouts, minced peanuts, and lime garnish the plate.
Beef with garlic pepper ($7.50, gra tiem) is normally a garlicky, black pepper sludge of sweet, black-molasses-like soy, yet here it is cooked more like a standard Chinese brown sauce with a little garlic and zero black pepper. We thought for sure we had been misunderstood when ordering, but no. The pork green curry ($7.50) more than redeems: a thick sauce made from reduced coconut cream and green curry paste, anointed with bamboo shoots, eggplant, and basil leaves. The accompanying steamed white rice is nutty and fragrant. I hated to see the original owners bail out, but the new owners seem to have a fairly good grip on the situation.