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Jun 15, 2005 09:59 AM

Thai Villa - Cary, NC

  • n

This is likely the best Thai in the Triangle. Some friends have been singing the praise forever, and I would either brush it off or at least put it on the backburner on my list of places to try. I finally got around to it last night.

Stopped in last night for a very quick bite before heading to Raleigh for a show. We were in a rush and I only wanted a small bite, so I kept it simple. I was a little nervous when I didn't see a papaya salad on the menu, a decent benchmark for evaluation, so I opted for the larb. Also had some bites out of the num tok which is basically the same thing, w/ beef instead of ground chicken. Both were very refreshing on that scorcher of a day, however, they were also scorching hot too, which I loved. No need to ask for it spicy, as I normally would feel compelled to do. Very fresh & tasty.

Also had some bites of pad ki mow (they call them Thai Villa Noodles on the menu), which I find to be another good measure of a Thai restaurant. They excelled here too, noodles were spot-on, as were the flavors. This one had shrimp, and they certainly were not skimpy with it. Some other folks at the table had the typical curries, panang & red, which both smelled and looked great.

The menu does look promising, even if I was a little skeptical after not seeing a broader selection of soups (and the papaya salad). They have tom yum and tom ka, and some boring vegetable one. A decent selection of noodle & rice dishes, and probably most curious to me, a handful of seafood offerings. In particular, I have a feeling they have what might be my favorite thing to come out of a Thai restaurant (Dok Bua, Boston), and that is soft-shelled crab w/ curry sauce, although the curry sauce on this menu is described as red (or can have chili-garlic sauce), whereas the one I remember was not red, not panang, and not like anything else i've had really. They also have spicy catfish, whole flounder, shrimp/squid/mussels. I'm a little dissapointed there's no duck on the menu though.

Anyways, check it out for yourself, if you haven't already. They're in Cary/Raleigh.

Thai Villa
South Hills Shopping Mall
1319 Buck Jones Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27606

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  1. How were the prices? I once walked in and then walked out again thinking that it looked like one of those $14.99-entree, small-portion kind of places that requires you to stop for a burger on the way home.

    By the way, the cafe in Grand Asia Market just across the parking lot seems to be going down hill. The dishes are getting worse, the menu is getting smaller, and the homemade potstickers have been replaced by frozen. I've also give up on the bakery. I love Chinese baked goods, but there's no getting around the fact that these for the most part stink.

    David A.

    6 Replies
    1. re: David A.

      This is horrible news, as I've been meaning to get back there. I still love the Market itself though.

      David, prices are reasonable. Apps range from 3.25 (fried tofu) - 8.95 (shrimp/squid/mussels). Entrees are around $10-13 for dinner, and about $2 less for lunch. Entrees were also of a reasonable size, although not huge. Then again, our culture is used to everything huge, so some might consider the portions small, although I don't think you could call them puny.

      No booze, but maybe call for BYOB.

      1. re: Nab

        This sounds fair enough. I'll give it a try next time I'm in Cary. The portion question is really a price question. Do my wife and I need two or three dishes? At Thai Palace the answer is three. We wind up spending $50 or $60, which is a bit pricey for a quick dinner in place of whatever we might eat at home. At Eastern Light, which is really not a bad place once you figure out what to order, we get by with two dishes, and the price comes to $25 or so.

        David A.

        1. re: David A.

          As for my portion comments, I was sort of thinking of some of these Chinese take-out type-places that have humongous servings (cheap ingredients).

          I think an appetizer and 2 entrees to split is probably the way to go, and will run ~ $30 pre-tip/tax. Or 3 entrees and you'll be taking some home with you.

          I need to try the dumplings at Eastern Light. What else should I be ordering there ?

          1. re: Nab

            Eastern Light has been growing on me. It's nothing special, but in numerous little ways it's better than the run of local Chinese restaurants. The potstickers are indeed excellent (the place used to serve dim sum). Without a menu in front of me, I can only recommend ordering from among the chef's specialties. These are less Americanized and more interesting. The homemade noodles are good, but I would avoid the noodles in bean sauce (Korean-style zhang zhang mien: noodles in a unpleasantly strong and pasty hoisin-style black sauce). I once complained about this dish to the owner but she claimed that Korean people love it. I was skeptical but since then I have indeed seen many Korean people happily slurping these noodles. I had the same dish at Korean Garden in Cary: it was better, but still basically disgusting. In China, zhang zhang mien is very different: noodles in a light, spicy meat sauce.

            Within the local Chinese community, by the way, Eastern Light is the clear favorite. It's far from ideal, but it suffices in a pinch.

            Best of luck,

            1. re: David A.

              so is Korean-style their strength, or what region ?

              thanks David.

              1. re: Nab

                The food is on the light side, and thus more in keeping with the food of Southern China. The chef, however, is from Shandong in the north: hence the good potstickers. The only Korean dish I've tried is the zhang zhang mien, but they seem to do a brisk business in Korean style dishes and they serve a full Korean style BBQ.

                I don't want to get your hopes up. The place is merely better than the local average, which is not to say that it's brilliant. Still, we eat there once or twice per month.

                David A.

    2. Ate there once and it was good but didn't blow me away. If I hanker for Thai I just bite the bullet and go to Ti Palace.

      1. I haven't been there in a while (maybe 1.5-2 years?), but last time I was there, I wasn't as impressed. IMO, Big Bowl had better Thai food, but perhaps the side of hepatitis gave it an extra kick. ;)

        I also took my Thai aunt there the last time and she gave it a 'C'. I'll have to bring her back to try out some of the other options.

        1. First time here. It's 2007 and this place is still great.

          I have a theory on Thai Food. Most of the best Thai restaurants have strange or silly names. In the Bay Area, 'My Thai' and 'Thai City' were the best while 'Bangkok Palace' and 'Thai Basil' were atrocious.

          Anyway, the Drunken Noodles(Thai Villa Noodles) was amazing. I love Drunken Noodles.