Sunday, January 14, 2007

In search of bad Thai food

In the Tampa Bay area, it seems that we are blessed with a multitude of great Thai restaurants. A Saturday night outing continues to prove my theory correct: It is very hard to find bad Thai food in the Tampa Bay area.

Our original plan was to meet our good friends at Ban Thai in Clearwater, which is located in a strip center on McMullen Booth Road. Unfortunately when we arrived, the restaurant was packed with a 30 minute wait. We were all starving and decided that would should try to pursue other options. One option was Vincenzo's Italian restaurant across the street. Their food is excellent as has received numerous good reviews, but we all had our hearts set on some spicy Thai food.

Our next closest option was Thai Thani (menu here) about 7-10 minutes west of our current location. As a side note, Thai Thani has a total of three locations (one in Tampa at Channelside and the other in Orlando on International Drive).

Thai Thani
25778 US Highway 19 North
Clearwater FL
(727) 797-8989

After calling first to make sure there was no wait, we headed on over. Our friends arrived first and were promptly seated. There were only 3-4 other tables filled in the restaurant. Close to fifteen minutes had passed and no one had yet come over to take our drink or appetizer orders. "This is going to be bad", I thought to myself. The server apologized and blamed the long wait on their broken computer system. Understandable.

Appetizers and drink orders were delivered promptly. As an appetizer, my wife and I shared fresh spring rolls, and some Mee Krob (which are crispy noodles usually mixed with shrimp, green onions, bean sprouts and a sweet sauce). For myself, I ordered a bowl of Tom Ka Gai soup. The soup was a tad too sweet in my opinion, but still had excellent flavor. Our friends ordered chicken satay. The appetizers were great, and out Thai food cravings were beginning to be satisfied.

For dinner, I decided on the Phad Panang, a spicy Thai curry dish prepared with coconut milk, bell peppers, strong beans and basil leaves. Served with either beef, chicken or pork. I chose chicken. My wife decided on the Cashew Nut Special (cashew nuts, scallions, mushrooms, celery, onion, water chestnut and snow peas stir-fried in a special sauce with choice of chicken, pork or beef). Both dishes were absolutely delicious, bursting with spices and flavor. As a unique touch, a large dabble of thick coconut cream was added to the middle of my bowl. This is something that I had not seen done before and I think that it really added a bit extra to the dish. Also consumed by our friends were Pepper Steak and Yellow Curry, both of which were fully enjoyed.

Despite one minor setback regarding the computer problems (the credit card machine didn't work either), I was thoroughly satisfied with the food at Thai Thani. I can definitely recommend this restaurant and will be adding it to my list of Thai restaurants to frequent.