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Detroit Thai places that set themselves apart?

Since I was moaning in another post about the now-ubiquitous nature of Thai places in the Detroit area, I got to thinking: what are the best Thai places in the area, based *solely* on the quality of food? Atmosphere is something that we're just going to have to put on the back burner, as most Thai places do most of their business in carry-out, and while there are some places that are meant to be eaten in, I've yet to really see a Thai "fine dining" establishment.

I'll start: Pi's Thai Cuisine in Hazel Park (as well as their secondary establishment at 16 & Dequindre in Sterling Heights) has always impressed me, no more so than with their tom yum soup that I'll make a meal of in itself (along with a bowl of rice). Spiciness in their dishes there is very potent, so the leery should go mild for sure. However, their ingredients are top-notch, and the taste comes through in spades. I've tried many things on the menu (none of the fried rices or anything...why bother eating Thai if this is what you're having?), and have rarely been disappointed. And as I said, the tom yum is fantastic.

Strictly for the pad thai noodle dish, Bangkok Cafe in Ferndale is good. Their standard pad thai includes both chicken *and* shrimp, and it's a good-sized, tasty portion. While they succeed in that dish, most everything else they serve is basically "Meh." There's nothing necessarily *wrong* with their other offerings, but neither are they anything tasty or savory. I tell my folks that "It's good as food, and that's about it." when referring to the rest of their menu.

And may I just take a moment of silence here to remember the former purveyor of Ny's Thai Cafe in Novi, who without any real notice at all up and moved to Switzerland because of his wife's job. Pany, we'll miss you. Heck, I *already* miss you. The business still exists, although it's under new ownership, and most of the menu didn't make the transition, sorry to say. The Vietnamese fresh spring rolls are still there, but they're not as good, and the whole place just seems lost without his enthusiasm and direction, not to mention his talent in the kitchen. If you never knew who Pany was, he was an established force in some of the finest kitchens in the Detroit area, and brought that experience to Ny's with him. His menu consisted not just of Thai, but many different Asian cuisines, and beyond (he's a certified French chef). He made a $3.50 creme brulee with homemade ice cream that would make you wonder how he found the time. It's a big loss, and considering that I used to travel to Novi from Ferndale *just* to go there, I'm honestly depressed about it.

OKAY! Enough of the moping! I want recommendations for places! Not only that, I want recommendations for *specific dishes* at those places! First person to recommend fried rice at one of them will be made to endure the Morgan Spurlock Treatment! ;)

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  1. I'm impressed by Lotus Thai in Ann Arbor, on Ann Arbor-Saline Rd. S of the I-94 exit (in the first shopping center on the right going south). It's a branch of a chain that is otherwise all in Thailand. Some dishes are ordinary, but it's a sharp looking place, and to me the duck with tamarind-coffee sauce is a real standout.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim M

      I've only been there once, just recently, and while it was good, I didn't think it was exceptional. Maybe I was ordering the ordinary.

      Did you hear they're opening another restaurant downtown on Main St. in the Ashley Mews building (across from where Packard ends)? Should be open pretty soon.

      1. re: Chris Weber

        Yeah, it's taking them a while to get it together. Hopefully the food will be as ambitious as the decor.

    2. I've been to these places only for lunch. What've found exceptional is the:

      Squid Pad Thai at Sala Thai on Russell St. in Eastern Market, Detroit.
      House special?/Thai (not sure what it's called) fried rice at Bangkok Hung on Northwestern Hwy., east of Franklin, Southfield.

      I've been to Lotus Thai in A2 twice for lunch and found it very unremarkable. Maybe I should try the duck with tamarind-coffee sauce mentioned above the next time I'm there. It sounds very interesting.

      1. This is one of my favorite foods, I have been to Thailand twice and it kind of ruined it for me here. So many Thai places Americanize the food to keep it from being sent back to the kitchen. They make it a little bland with a lot less heat, even if you order hot or extra hot. All my places are based on Pad Thai as that is what I use for my benchmark before ordering the different dishes.

        Well back to the post as stated above Pi's is good on JohnR I have not been to the other location.

        Sala in Eastern Market is probably the best around for fresh well prepared food.

        In Sterling Heights I really enjoy the Bangkok Pavilion on the NW corner of Canal and Schoenerr by Lakeside Mall. They are one of the best Pad Thais around and the owners are Thai and very friendly. Also worth the try here is the Shrimp Fresh Rolls very good.

        Now Boagman you will have to forgive me here you guessed it fried rice. In Thailand they take this dish to another level. They use the very flavorful Jasmin Rice and spice it and cook it to perfection. It is very popular in Thailand you will find a noodle (Pad Thai) cart and a rice cart on every block. Locally the best Pineapple Fried Rice I have had is at Bangkok Bistro (I think that is the name) it is on Van Dyke between 16 and 16 1/2 mile East side by Shogun Steakhouse.

        Another rant I have is Thai restaurant ownership. I am starting to see more and more Chinese owned places. I have not been to a Chinese owned Thai restaurant that I would go back to. Don't get me wrong I love Chinese food but they just don't do Thai right.

        Last if you want to see some real smiles and maybe get a little better food in a Thai OWNED place learn a few words.

        Hello if your a man is Sawadee Kup
        Hello if your female is Sawadee Ka

        Now for the head turner and this is usually pretty funny to see the reaction. When your server brings your water or beverage and puts it on the table say.

        If your a man Cop Coon Kup
        If your female Cop Coon Ka

        This means Thank You and most Thais will be stunned to hear their language come from customers. Also this is when you can talk to them and ask for your food Thai Style or like they would cook it in Thailand. I have found that you will get great service and the food will come out with a little more pride and done perfect.

        Enjoy

        Gary

        4 Replies
        1. re: firestalker

          I agree with you completely re: the increase and quality of Thai restaurants owned by Chinese. I only go to the Thai-owned restaurants, and as a "farang" who speaks Thai fairly fluently (and also reads/writes the language too), I know most of the restaurant owners (they will usually change the way they make food for me and my Thai wife to be more authentic).

          As for recommendations, Sala Thai has a branch in Sterling Heights (14 Mile between Dequindre & Ryan) which is generally good. There's also Bangkok Bistro** in Troy (15 Mile, between Crooks & Coolidge) which serves an excellent Chiengrai Eggplant. And then, there's Bangkok Cuisine on 15 Mile & Dequindre, owned and operated by one of the original Thai restaurant owners (Sandy "Somnuk" Arpachinda) - they've recently started a Saturday & Sunday Bangkok Noodles idea, where from Noon to 4PM, they serve very large bowls of authentic Thai noodle soup for $7.50 (I recommend the Kwaytiew Moo Toon). I've stayed away from Pi's Cuisine, mainly because their prices are a tad higher than the other places (and unless things have changed, they have no lunch menu).

          One last thing - for REAL authentic Thai food here, you can go to one of the Thai Buddhist temples on Sunday. Local Thai residents bring home-made delicious authentic Thai food for the monks, and the lay folks eat after the monks have finished. Aroy maak maak! There are two local Thai temples - one in Warren on Ryan between 12 & 13 mile, and one in Sterling Heights on Plumbrook (north of 17 Mile and Van Dyke).

          ** - Bangkok Bistro also has a Sterling Heights restaurant on Van Dyke north of Metro Parkway, which serves the same excellent Chiengrai Eggplant.

          1. re: shiskabob

            In the same vein of the local Buddhist temples....this one is a bit further out but from what I hear....the best. Near Perry, MI

            http://www.dhammasala.org/

            I believe the food is handed out on the same fashion.

            1. re: JanPrimus

              You are correct re: Dhammasala, which is on Beardslee Road, a continuation of Williamston Rd.- I was restricting this to the temples in the greater Detroit area. Lansing has a large Thai community, and most of them will cook authentic food for sale at Dhammasala buddhist ceremonies at a reasonable price. And on non-Buddhist ceremony days, food is indeed handed out in the same fashion.

        2. I like Thai Bistro on Ford Rd. In canton. Best Thai food I have ever eaten.

          1. Bangkok Crossing on Woodward in downtown Detroit. Out of the half dozen Thai places in greater downtown this is the best (imo at least as good as Sala Thai without the decor) and arguably the best in the metro area. It's relatively new and yet unknown. Just south of Campus Martius.

            5 Replies
            1. re: tdot

              i work in the one detroit center and have been to bangkok several times. it is good. surprisingly nice, big room despite a really bad/run down exterior. had a great shrimp curry dish last time.

              i also like the place (can't remember the name) in the compuware building (under the parking deck, down the block from the hardrock). tiny, always filled to the brim at lunch, decent food, and a heat scale that is a good half a tick above what you expect ("medium" is more like "medium +").

              a block and a half east is another little place (sorry again, don't remeber the name) on monroe a block before fishbones. small family place. usually busy. good hot and sour soup. nice $7 daily special plus typical pad thai, pad ped, curries, etc.

              1. re: xman887

                The place on Monroe is Bahn Thai. It's good, but nowhere near Sala Thai in Eastern Market, IMHO. Bahn Thai also has an outlet in the RenCen food court, which makes it a good option for fast food, but not for Thai food.

                1. re: xman887

                  And the place in Compuware, I believe, is Orchid Thai. I did not know there was also a Banh Thai in the Ren Cen. I believe the Thai place next to Beans & Bytes Cafe on Woodward is also a Thai chain.

                  1. re: xman887

                    And the place in Compuware, I believe, is Orchid Thai. I did not know there was also a Banh Thai in the Ren Cen. I believe the Thai place next to Beans & Bytes Cafe on Woodward is also a Thai chain.

                    1. re: tdot

                      after lunch today, i drove past the compuware bldg on my way back to the office - i checked and it is called orchid thai