When you mention Thai food to people, the first reaction you usually get is something pertaining to its spiciness. And while Thai food can be very spicy, most places around town are more than willing to work with customers. And really there is so much more to Thai food than heat. Sweet, sour, salty, creamy, rich, light: These are all adjectives that should be used to described good Thai food, which is supposed to be a balanced variety of flavors. Here are my top five picks for places that do Thai food right. Please feel free to leave me suggestions for other places I should try.
Khun Kay The controversial Khun Kay makes my list of top 5 for two reasons. First, it's extraordinarily fast and inexpensive. Second, its tofu is amazingly fresh and delicious. Naysayers often liken Khun Kay to Thai fast food, and I agree. That's why I love it. I can stop by post-gym looking all gnarly and exhausted and walk out ten minutes later with a spicy plate of curry and a bowl of soup for about $10.
Thai Gourmet Good food, good service, good ambiance. That's how I describe Thai Gourmet to my friends. I like to start with the earthy, peanutty satay skewers and then move onto to the Thai Curry Noodles with Shrimp. Rich, glossy egg noodles are topped with curry and a creamily sweet coconut milk. Be careful when you specify the heat level, because they don't mess around when they say Thai hot.
Nidda Thai is one of my favorite cuisines, and as such I am constantly asking people where they like to go. Nidda always makes the list. This is one of the few Thai joints in town to make a perfect papaya salad. The coconut-lime soup is almost transcendental in its airy flavor intensity. Other standouts include the stir-fried eggplant and the Nidda Shrimp. And of course, they have an excellent Pad Thai.
Thai Bistro Charmingly elegant, Thai Bistro is the kind of place you could take a date to. I often have, and we always leave stuffed and happy. You can tell the food is lovingly prepared here, with attention to detail. For example, they use real Thai chilies instead of substituting the more readily available jalapeno. The curries are simmered for hours to produce intense flavor sensations. Although many of the names have been westernized, the dishes are traditional and fabulous.
Kanomwan A Houston institution for many years, Kanomwan may not be in the most convenient of locales, but with a large menu of skillfully prepared dishes, this restaurant is always worth the drive. Voted Best Thai Restaurant multiple by the Houston Press, Kanomwan suffered from an uncertain future when the curmudgeonly, but much beloved, owner passed away last year. Thus far the reports have been positive, indicating that the food remains top-notch.