New Thai Resto in Durham
Just got a call from my good friend suse, who was in front of the former location of Esposito's in Durham (on Univ. Drive, behind Target). Evidently Esposito's is now closed, and the sign in the window was advertising "Help Wanted" for a new Thai restaurant!! They listed a website (www.aboutthaicooking.com), which I checked out. The outfit opening this restaurant is a Thai cooking school called "Spice of Life" that has been operating out of Raleigh. Has anybody heard of it? Is there some talent behind the scenes at this place? I sooo hope so. To have a great Thai restaurant in what is essentially my back yard would do fantastic things for my quality of life!
I know a few things about this place (if indeed this is the same place, I heard it was 'near Saladelia'), because the owners just moved in to my neighborhood, just down the street from me.
I think the name is supposed to be the Wicked Noodle or something like that. From what I hear, the owners are experienced in ventures like this (I think possibly they have other restaurants in California?), though they're not moguls or anything (we live on a rather modest Durham street). I'll try to find out more soon.
Wow, what great access to the inside scoop! It's definitely the same place. Please do report back if and when you are able to get more information. From what I can tell on the website, it looks like they are planning to deliver. This is beginning to sound too good to be true!
I have seen their website in the past. Good to see them moving to Durham and trying their hand in the restaurant business.
I've taken a few cooking classes from the guy -- my impression was that he was very talented, used good ingredients, and made good food ... but at the end of the class, he would try to sell stuff, and the markup vs. Grand Asia or Asia Market was quite high (I remember Pocky for $5.) I know, a man's gotta make a living, so take from that what you will.
I stopped by today and spoke with one of the owners, Jak. Seemed like a very nice guy. He said that they're bringing in a chef from CA, but I didn't get a lot of details. They are aiming to open up sometime mid-January, but from the looks of things they still have a lot of work to do. I think it has the potential to be a good space though. I hope they will set a higher bar for the quality of the food than the other Thai restaurants around, most of which are by and large disappointing.
re: Doug Townsend
I go to Thai Cafe every few weeks when I really want Thai food, and I'm feeling too lazy to cook. The chicken larb isn't bad, and the massaman curry is acceptable. I don't find anything there great, and a few of their dishes (pad thai, especially) I find truly sub-par. The atmosphere there is just one notch more cheerful than John Umstead Hospital.*
Thai is probably my favorite cuisine, and I feel the absence of great Thai food in Durham deeply. Thai food should (a) dance with intense, complex flavor, (b) have those strong flavors be balanced, (c) be composed of great ingredients, like high-quality, thick coconut milk, and (d) be beautiful to look at, with colorful garnishes and attractive serving dishes. For me, Thai Cafe falls short on all of these fronts. That said, I'd rather have them there than not have them there. However, I hope that Twisted Noodle will be a cut above.
*Just for clarity, JUH was my employer, not my healthcare provider.
i guess i'm kinda in a different boat. i like the thai cafe, but think the chicken masaman is the second worst thing on the menu to the bbq chicken. I love the spicy basil chicken, especially. The pad prik with pork has never been a bad choice, either, and i think their red and green curries are delicious, especially the prik king. there's nothing more refreshing than the green papaya salad on a summer day. it's so fun to eat with the sticky rice. i have lived in thailand and am actually going back in two weeks, so my criteria, unlike durhamois, does not include attractive serving dishes and colorful garnishes. i ate food with chickens walking around, pecking at pebbles near my feet. I do understand point c, and they could use some higher-quality ingredients, but people already complain about the 10 to 12 dollar meals on the menu now on the chow board, i can't imagine the durham backlash with a fifteen dollar plate of food.
the following letters are in reference to durhamois' criteria above:
there are plenty of dishes, as the ones i've mentioned, that have both (a) and (b) criterion. The (c) is kinda deficient, and i'd like to see some thai eggplants and maybe a daily fresh fish selection to increase quality and authenticity. i'm not even gonna touch on (d) again, because asian food is supposed to be about THE FOOD.
i'm not trying to discount (d) as a general dining preference, but i don't see it a necessary aspect of asian food.
but one final thing, if you want both (a) and (b), why would you like the flat flavor of the masaman curry. i think a lot of these bashes on thai cafe are from people who consider themselves thai food lovers just because they enjoy pad thai...
I like the food at Thai Cafe - but they need a manager. Service is terrible. It's always packed with no host at the door. The waiters have to bus their own tables, which they are usually too busy to do. Hire some bussers people! Would go more often if the service was better.