With enough spicy aroma emanating from its kitchen to curry the air around the eastern end of the Lawrence campus, Taste of Thai is a restaurant whose menu is already familiar to scores of Lawrentians, and rightfully so. For those unfamiliar with the curried wiles of Taste of Thai’s cuisine, a lunch buffet offering staple Thai foods–spring rolls, clear soup–and a small assortment of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes is a fantastic way to sample a variety of food for only $5.95. However, for those ready to expand their familiarity with the restaurant’s cuisine, as my companions and I were, Taste of Thai also carries a full menu of traditional soups, appetizers, entrees, pastas, and seafoods.
Upon arrival into Taste of Thai’s dimly lit and traditionally decorated interior, we were immediately greeted and seated at a table for three on the upper level of the split-level dining room. Our server promptly supplied us with water and menus, and being a vegetarian, I immediately turned to, but was not confined by, the vegetarian menu, which listed a small variety of soups, appetizers, pastas, and entrees.
By the time our server returned, I had selected a three-course meal of straw-mushroom soup (tome yum hed, at spice level 3), battered vegetables, deep-fried and served with ginger sauce (vegetable tempura) and mixed vegetables, tofu, and potatoes, cooked with coconut milk, curry, and ground peanuts (vegetable musamin curry – spice level 2). My companions made their selections of garlic-marinated beef on a bed of cabbage (beef garlic – spice level 1) and rice noodles sauteed with mixed vegetables, eggs, and sweet soy sauce (vegetable pud see euw).
Our soup was delivered promptly, and consisted of a somewhat watery, though flavorful, broth seasoned with lemon grass and crushed peppers, and thick with straw mushrooms. The fresh lemony flavor of the broth contrasted nicely with the woody texture and taste of the mushrooms, and the crushed peppers added just enough spice to accent them both well. It was a great, light opening to the meal, and served well as a lead into the second course.
The vegetable Tempura arrived piping hot and served with a side of sweet ginger sauce – two skewers of seasoned vegetables surrounded by a sweet breading and deep-fried to a crispy golden brown. The sweet taste of our second course varied with the fresh, herbal flavor of the first, and the tangy ginger sauce was a perfect accompaniment.
Although our server took his sweet time bringing out our third course, it arrived fresh and steaming. My vegetable musamin curry, a masterpiece of fresh slices of potatoes, mushrooms, green beans, and tofu in a creamy ground-peanut and curry sauce, was a delicious and hearty entre, served with a base of white rice that traditionally accompanies any dish not made with pasta.
For dessert, we selected the Thai fried banana dish. A halved banana deep-fried in a sweet pastry wrapper, it came served with two dollops of ice cream infused with fresh chunks of coconut, walnuts, and vanilla bean. The dish was a good contrast of warm and cold and a rather sweet way to end an exemplary meal.
With an atmosphere situated comfortably between casual and formal, and a location that would make the restaurant practically an addition to the Lawrence campus, as well as the freshness and variety found in their menu, Taste of Thai is a restaurant well worth frequenting.