Mai Thai Restaurant a Nice Surprise
This is a quaint little restaurant hidden in a mini-mall.
My wife and I were driving around taking care of a few errands when I mentioned this week's column.
The only restaurant close by that I hadn't reviewed was this little Thai place at 875 E. Bloomingdale Ave., in Bloomingdale Square.
Nestled between Publix and Walmart, it was certainly a nice surprise to find such a tiny place that impressed me this much.
Mai Thai, formerly Simply Thai, is a very clean restaurant (even the salt and pepper shakers were polished, as well as the silverware) with a more-than-helpful waitress named Dobi.
We mentioned that we were new to Thai cuisine and asked for a little help with the menu. Dobi had a warm and understanding smile and a look like she had been through this dance before. She even mentioned that we look familiar because she has seen us go into Ace Hardware and Publix often — good business sense.
I spent quite a bit of time in the Far East in my youth, but I have never been to Thailand, so I basically knew what to expect as far as vegetables and noodles go. But the spice was very different from any Oriental food I have ever encountered. I asked what made it so special, and all I got was "Thai peppers," which will have to do for now, but I will research this further.
We ordered the spring rolls and the shrimp in a blanket for appetizers. The spring rolls were tiny, with a crisp and flaky wonton wrapped around cabbage and pork and deep fried to perfection. They actually reminded me of the Filipino dish called lumpia, and that's a good thing. I don't know of a person alive who has eaten lumpia that doesn't love this little treat, so the spring rolls were a hit.
The shrimp in a blanket were even better, with a sweet sauce on the side that only complemented the shrimp rolls. I'm not sure what the stuffing was in with the shrimp, but next time I will ask.
We were almost done with the appetizers when the main courses arrived. When she sat them in front of us, the first words out of my mouth were that I would be needing a box, as there was no way I was going to finish my lunch — huge portions.
I ordered the "pad lad-nah," which was a beef and broccoli served with a rich sauce over wide rice noodles. Delicious. I might have added a little corn starch to thicken up the sauce just a tiny bit, but that's just me. It was very tasty, and I asked Dobi not to make mine too spicy, as I have heard the stories about the Thai peppers making grown men cry. It was a stimulating cross between hot and sweet, and when I asked where they got the sauce she said it was homemade — hurrah for the fresh food.
My wife ordered the Mai Thai pepper steak over rice. The steak was tender and the peppers crisp over a nice bed of rice. The waitress loved the fact that we enjoyed the vegetables so much that she told us to ask for extra veggies next time and there would be no extra charge. This dish was beyond delicious and, although my wife's was a little spicier than mine, I liked her lunch better, and I think this is my curse. From now on I'm going to let my wife, daughter or friends order first, then steal their idea.
I'm giving these guys four stars and, one of those is for the superb personality of Dobi that always makes for a fine meal.
1 Star — Wouldn't go back on a bet
2 Star — Would have to go back, but only on a bet
3 Star — If I was in the neighborhood and hungry
4 Star — Would go out of my way even if I wasn't hungry
5 Star — Would make reservations and wait in a line