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Apr 22, 2008 01:51 PM

Incredible Thai -- between Clermont and Leesburg

Thai and Friends Restaurant (352-429-0705) It's actually in the Palace Hotel and Resort (a dumpy place) where the turnpike intersects with U.S. Hwy 27 (20349 U.S. 27 North).

The former owners of Thai Lotus in Clermont (Otto and Rootie) have moved out here and reopened. The food is as outstanding as it was in their former location.

The hours are Lunch 11:30 - 2:30 Monday - Friday,

Dinner 7 nights a week 5 - 9 (10 on Fri and Sat).

This is one of those restaurants where when I go for a period of time without having the food, I dream about it. I would recommend staying with the more traditional Thai foods or the curries. The lunch entree prices are $6 to $8.50 and the portion size on many of them is huge, so on many of entrees you can take half home. The dinner entree prices range from $13 - $17, and again many of them have huge portion sizes.

WARNING..... Otto has a deserved reputation for how he sometimes treats newcomers a bit brusquely. ie he has been known to shout at customers... It's a well known character flaw. I think it is because he wants the newcomers to have a great experience so when they take issue at something he doesn't know how to handle the pressure. Don't let him scare you off, the food is incredible and once you make it past newcomer status you will become one of his fiercely loyal customers (I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like it in any other restaurant, think the Cheers equivalent of a Thai food restaurant...).

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  1. No Thai for you!!! ;)

    Food sounds awesome, even if Otto took a page from "the soup nazi". I'll put it on the list to check out when I'm down that way.

    I'm craving Thai, anyone had any great Thai more towards Orlando metro recently?


    1 Reply
    1. re: winechic

      He's definitely a character. When he had his old restaurant, he wouldn't let new customers order their food to spicy (they have a 1 - 4 and 'Thai Hot' rating system). New people had to work up to the spicier levels, even though he has a notice in the menu that you are 'stuck' (no return or refunds) with the food if you order it to spicy. When the restaurant was short staffed (not an infrequent occurence), his regulars would often bus tables, serve drinks, take orders and some even cashed people out. I often thought that he gave away more food than he charged for, I know on some nights that had to be the case.

    2. We recently moved to Lake Co. from the Boston area. Missing the great food
      in Boston. herbert1 thanks for the great rec for Thai and Friends. When I saw
      you say that you dream about it if you don't go for a while, I knew it was a chowish
      place. When I saw that it was only 25 miles from my house my taste buds started to
      tingle. Well we made it over for lunch today and were not disappointed.

      We were the only customers so Otto had time to talk to us. When he found out where we were from, he told us that he used to have a restaurant in NYC prior to the 10 years at his previous l Clermont location.

      Beautiful food. We will be back to sample the much more extensive dinner menu. Looks like there are some wonderful seafood dishes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kingbee

        Glad you enjoyed it, Ask Otto on what he recommends when you go in. A new Thai place opened up in downtown Winter Garden that from my one time experience is pretty good as well. Right next to the Chefs Table at Edgewater Hotel.... anouther great place to try.

      2. Ooooh thank you herbert1! I work in the area, and there is really NOTHING that can be called "incredible" anywhere within 10 miles. That hotel is just awful-wasn't that where the Even Par Pub was located? I actually saw the new sign just the other day on my way back to work from running errands by the Citrus Tower. My eyes saw "Thai" but I didn't believe it. Now were these the same 2 people that opened Thai Orchid in the Leesburg mall? She's a nurse and he's overly anxious to please- both friendly. He sat down at our table and asked why we didn't finish all of our food! The Pad Thai was like glue but I liked the other dish

        I will go this week, and I'm sure I can handle Otto. I'm also sure I can't handle Thai hot!
        Have you been to Thai Ruby in Lake Sumter Landing/Villages area? I've enjoyed every meal I've had there-this killer salad with lime, peanuts, pork-deliciousness. The lunch menu is almost the same as the dinner at about half the price.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Boccone Dolce

          no I haven't been to Thai Ruby. When you go to Thai and Friends stick with the more traditional Thai items. (the vermicelli dish and cashew dish are particularly good lunch choices) Talked to Otto yesterday and he says he will start closing on Monday's for lunch.

          1. re: Boccone Dolce

            The Thai restaurant that was in the Leesburg Mall was Thai Jasmine and the actual restaurant is located in Tavares. The one in the mall was destine to fail because overhead costs pushed the price out of the normal lunch category. The new Indian Restaurant will likely have the same end ($13 for lunch). If you go to their actual restaurant in Tavares, the price comes back to a reasonable $5-ish range.

            I only ate at the old Thai and Friends once while it was in Clermont and it was okay (no complaints, but nothing to write home about either). I had a better experience (environment and food) at Thai Jasmine, but I like my food Thai Hot, and I do not remember my Otto Experience as hot (very bland), which would be a one stop experience for me (if it is bland, I tend to not go back). I sure would not waste the money of 3 or 4 meals to 'convince Otto' that I like my food a special way.

            1. re: scott.2040

              oooh looky there I was a year ago! :o)
              we have been to Thai and Friends several times and it is worth noting that the lunch is reasonable and he will TOTALLY make it hot if you tell him you want it that way. I would not call it 'incredible' but they make a toe twisting good spicy soup that I almost always order- for $6 I eat forever and it is always fresh and delicious.
              I get it with chicken, the one w/the wide flat noodles, plus I've graduated to a 3 hotness level!
              I don't care for the free soup he serves when you order lunch- its a poor representation of the chef's cooking. I almost want to suggest he stop serving it.
              We are in love with Otto- he's just adorable and seems to love his customers. I saw they just put up a bigger sign out front.

              1. re: Boccone Dolce

                I think the food quality is down some since they moved. I agree the free soup isn't the best. Still love Otto and Ruti though. And yes they will make it as hot as you want.

          2. Just a note that the hours have changed:
            Lunch is Wed-Friday at 11:30-2:30
            Dinner: 5:00-9:00 7 days a week

            1. Otto has not changed and food is still GREAT. He is closed EVERY TUESDAY as always.