Thai House in Bham
Ok, I finally took the plunge and dined there for lunch last week despite the mixed reviews. I simple had to sample it for myself. The decor is simple. There's not much to indicate that it's an Asian place - save for the hanging dragons against the wall and soy bottles on the table. In otherwords, it's not cheesy, but not special either. The lunch menu featured no sushi. I was a bit surprised by this, but it wasn't a deal breaker for me. The prices for lunch entrees are in line with Surin's. Between $6.50 & $7.50 for most.
There are similarities in the menus. If I recall correctly, fried catfish is offered (but I can't remember what the accompanying sauce was), pad thai, massaman, chicken noodle bowl, pad prik, thai beef salad and a plethora of other things. I think they offered between 12 & 15 choices.
All lunch entrees come with the traditional coconut/chicken soup AND a spring roll. The soup was very good, loaded with lots of mushrooms, green onions and tofu. I detected a bit of cilantro, but it was very subtle. The most noticable difference between the soup here and Surin was that it was much lighter. It's appearance is not as opaque as Surin's soup. Perhaps they used light coconut milk instead of full fat. It didn't diminish the flavor in the least. It was much less greasy feeling but still had the full notes of coconut. I really, really enjoyed it. I also felt that it had a bit more bite or heat than Surin's.
The basil roll was very good. Lightly fried, just getting the wrapper crispy. The insides were fresh tasting and not affected by the frying in the least. I was, however, disappointed in the sauce. It was the jarred, coyingly sweet, sweet & sour sauce. I would have loved a good plum sauce or something including wasabi.
I ordered the massaman chicken thai hot, because I wanted to compare it to a well-loved dish that Surin offers. The presentation was blah. Rice on one side, the chicken mixture on the other and the place was drowning in sauce. (My friend's pad thai was much more appetizing to look at.) However, the flavor was great! The sauce was heavenly. And what I thought was too much sauce turned out to be just the right amount since it drizzled the it over my rice. And instead of adding the "thai hot" by simply sprinkling the dried thai chilis over the top of my dish, it was incorporated in the sauce so that it was evenly distributed. Every bite had heat. The chicken was thinly sliced, but a bit overcooked. Luckily the sauce helped with that problem. The potatos and carrots were cooked well, but were cut a bit too big for my taste. I thought they were skimpy on the avocado - just three small slivers. They were likewise frugal with the cashews. Plus, some of the cashews were roasted so much, they tasted a bit burnt.
All in all, I thought the Thai House offered a really good meal. Is it life changing? No. But if I can get a satisfying Thai fix without having to hike up the hill to Five Points South or battle someone for a parking place (and barring I'm not in the mood for sushi), I'll choose to go there. It's a good and different option for those of us who work in the UAB area.
I've been about 7 or 8 times so far, including today. I really like the Thai Spicy Beef salad, although it is often over-dressed so that the greens become too saturated. Still good. I've always ordered Thai hot and today was no exception - the heat was there, which was evidenced by my breaking out in a little sweat on the forehead.
It also looks like they have hired at least two new waitresses. Maybe because they seem to be getting quite busy recently and this can't hurt either
Well it's very convenient and I haven't tried anything else yet. I should give it a shot another time when I don't just want the salad with spicy beef. But I do like to eat that salad at least once every two weeks ... I like it but not sure I would go out of my way for the salad, either here or at Surin.
They don't have sushi yet, but are planning to offer it soon. The dinner menu already lists the sushi that will be available.
I have visited Thai House twice for dinner. There are some positives and negatives in comparision with Surin West...
The menu is not as extensive as Surin's. The service was more attentive. The prices are lower (for dinner). The atmosphere was quieter.
I tried the Paht Woon Sen and Chicken Panang. Both were a bit better than Surin's. The thing I like about Thai House is that they cook the dish to order. Surin, on the other hand, has a big pot of cooked chicken, tofu and vegetables, and they make the dish and then put the unflavored items from the big pots into your already-cooked noodle dish, stir it up, and serve it. Thus the meat/tofu in Surin's noodle dishes does not have any flavor. At Thai House, the veggies and meat in the Paht Woon Sen were obviously cooked in whatever spices/sauces that flavor the dish. I liked that a lot.
We ordered the Paht Woon Sen during both visits, and the second time they put those little canned mini-corns in it, and they were disgustingly sweet.
We also tried a basil stir-fry, which was good but not remarkable. The chicken coconut soup is good, and generous with chicken and fresh mushrooms. (Surin's is also very good, but they are a bit stingy with ingredients other than broth.)
I'd like to try the sushi when they start serving it.