Tony Makes Some Authentic Thai

When we talk about Thai food in Houston, people generally point to Vieng Thai or Asia Market. Everyone seems to overlook the Thai food out on Bellaire Boulevard, which, while not as ubiquitous as Chinese or Vietnamese, can definitely be found. One of my favorites has been Tony Thai, not only because it is one of the most well-appointed Thai restaurants in town, but because of the consistency. I always have a good meal there, and a recent lunch did not disappoint.

They offer some great lunch bento boxes for $6.95, but since we hadn't been there for a while, we ordered some of my favorites a la carte. First up got the sweet and spicy, crispy, finger-lickin' Thai chicken wings. For $7.99 you get a plateful of glistening, reddish-orange, gloriously crispy wings. I think of them as the Asian version of Buffalo wings, only better, because these are plump, large and full of meat, and the skin is fried so crisp that there's this pebbled texture to it. I am always so eager to eat them that I'll pick them up while they are piping-hot, alternating fingers so they don't get burnt. The just-fried chicken meat is moist and satisfying, the sweet, stick-to-your fingers sauce super-tasty and delicious.

Next up, a staple noodle dish for me, my go-to pad see ew. Most places use the ready-cut noodles, which are about a centimeter wide, but not Tony Thai. Their wide, hand-cut flat rice noodles were about one and a half inches wide, and so fresh they were almost transparent. Seasoned just so, with the smoky aroma that you can only get from a fire-heated wok, the noodles were light and kind of chewy, just like you would get on the streets of Bangkok. It's also important to note that some restaurants will use American broccoli in this dish, but Tony Thai does it the Thai way, using Chinese broccoli.

Our last dish was a simple one, yet hard to find. I've ordered this at countless restaurants, only to be disappointed because the meat wasn't cooked correctly or the sauce wasn't quite right. But the Tiger Cry, or sliced beef with spicy dipping sauce, is always good at Tony Thai. We got a huge plateful of sliced beef that had been cooked to a medium rare, so that the meat was still tender, juicy and flavorful. I can't quite figure out the spices in the sauce, some sort of lime-fish sauce-Thai spice-cilantro concoction, but whatever it was, I loved it. Of the three dishes, this one is the one with the flavors that most closely resembled what I think of as Thai food. Simply delicious.

As we were paying our bill, I peeked into the kitchen and saw a Thai lady hard at work. It's one of the reasons why Tony Thai is always a hit for me. Their staff -- front of the house and back of the house -- is almost all exclusively Thai, an excellent sign when you're craving some good Thai cooking.

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham