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Meanwhile, my basil duck, a plate of small chunks of medium-rare meat stir-fried with lots of chiles and Thai basil, was quite spicy and tasted great with the sweet passionfruit drink. Fruit and duck are a natural combination anyway.
Houston, TX 77006
Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Dinner hours: 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The curries at Thai Sticks are mostly straightforward and authentic. The best one I tried was beef in massamancurry. This hearty red curry, made with chiles, spices and shrimp paste, is most popular among the Muslims of southern Thailand -- in fact, massaman means "Muslim" in Thai.
The Thai Sticks version of massaman curry with beef contained a touch of peanut butter, which gave it a wonderfully thick texture. Massaman curry and peanut butter are frequently combined; they are the two main ingredients in the dipping sauce served with Thai beef satay.
I also tried seafood in green curry, which was excellent, although I wished I had ordered it Thai hot. The basil and other herbal flavors in the curry were pronounced, but there weren't enough green chiles in it.
I was not very impressed by Thai Sticks' Americanized presentation of pad thai, the classic noodle dish. In Bangkok, pad thai is made by tossing together flat rice noodles, crushed peanuts, chiles, sprouts, herbs and other ingredients in a wok, then binding the mixture with some beaten egg. The result is a stunning package of complementary tastes and textures.
Like many Houston Thai restaurants, Thai Sticks serves pad thai with the noodles in the middle of a plate, surrounded by little piles of crushed peanuts, lime wedges and sprouts. You're supposed to mix up the noodles with the other stuff however you like it. But it doesn't work that way.
First of all, few people understand the need for audience participation. They simply eat the noodles and forget about the other stuff. And second, even if you do mix it up, it doesn't taste right. It's like ordering a western omelet and getting plain scrambled eggs with onions, peppers, ham and cheese in little piles around the plate -- not the same thing.
Luckily, I've discovered an uncompromised "pad" dish on the menu that's served with all of the ingredients properly incorporated -- and now that I know about "drunkard's noodles," I may never order pad thai again. But unluckily, pad kee mao is served only at lunch. Maybe if it's specially requested often enough, the management at Thai Sticks will put it on the evening menu.
For all of its attributes, this upscale Thai restaurant will always be a little too spiffy for the local bohemian element. "I'd rather sit in the dark and smoke at Mo Mong," one young hipster told me. But if you can stand the bright and cheerful decor, Thai Sticks is now offering some of the best modern Asian fare in Montrose.
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