Pad Thai Thai Cuisine
Tastes of Thailand in Central Texas
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Oct. 9, 2009
Pad Thai Thai Cuisine1201 Barbara Jordan Blvd. #1220, 469-1778; 13000 N. I-35, Bldg. 12 #200, 491-6904
We went to the newer of the two locations, which is in the mega strip mall in the Mueller development, several blocks east of I-35, in the northeast corner of the southern block of stores. Its menu is a clone of the one at Thai Passion (the owner, Chai, once worked for Gene Kobboon at Thai Passion), but the quality of the food falls short of the restaurant it imitates.
Gaeng jeud was the soup of the day, made with frozen pulled chicken meat, onion, celery, carrot, and cabbage. The broth has a distinct bouillon flavor, thick with ingredients. The tom kha ($3.79, bowl; $8, firepot) lacks the richness of coconut cream, with a faint suggestion of galangal (the dish's name means galangal soup). Normally, lime leaf and lemongrass are found, but here they have gone missing.
The restaurant's pad thai ($6.99, lunch; $8.99, dinner) is bland, even for pad thai. The chicken resembles frozen pulled chicken meat, and there is a lack of fried tofu, egg, and scallions. A faint tamarind flavor is present, but there is no complexity or balance of sweet, tart, salty, and spicy. The typical garnish of fresh bean sprouts is replaced with finely shredded cabbage. The pad kee mao ("drunken noodles," $6.99/$8.99) is one-dimensional, dominated by bell-pepper slices which tend to overpower other flavors. Even though we requested very spicy, it was mild. To its credit, Pad Thai cooks its food in a hot enough wok to get a nice char on its stir-fry ingredients.
The green curry ($8.99) is fairly pedestrian, made with what tastes like unamended canned green-curry paste, coconut milk, chicken base, bamboo sprouts, zucchini, bell peppers (again), and basil. A shame, since using fresh chicken (and chicken stock), eliminating the overused bell peppers, and jazzing up authentic flavors with lime leaf and lemongrass could make all the difference in the world. Pad Thai, at this location anyway, seems to be cutting corners and worrying more about the bottom line than the flavor on the plate.