Crave (at 21st and Guad)
I'm pretty picky about my Thai and despite all the new Thai places that have appeared in Austin over the years, there is still noplace better than Thai kitchen, IMNSHO. Here's what I require for good Thai:
-They serve Thom Yum soup (which has no coconut, with coconut is Thom KHA soup) in hot pots not in individual bowls. It must come in a hot pot (the big metal bowl with a small naptha/sterno fire under it to keep it hot) for the proper experience. Individual bowls don't cut it.
-They have a green curry dish like green curry fried rice that has spicy green curry, chopped green beans, thai basil, and NO coconut milk whatsoever. Other ingredients are variable, but I want a green curry that is coconut milk free and in general I find getting a coconut-free green curry is hard unless you go to Thai Kitchen.
-I require that they have a fairly generous container of nam prik (thai chiles chopped up in fish sauce) at the table when I arrive. I don't want to have to ask for it and I'll be especially annoyed if they don't have it, have to make it up right then special for me or don't know what I'm talking about when I ask for it.
How does Crave do on these points?
I started going during the summer that they opened, 2008. The crispy tilapia is divine (just ask for the chili sauce on the side or it's too overwhelming). Some dishes aren't so great. My faves are the jalapeno basil flat noodles with chicken - I forget what it's called - and the yellow curry. Both are quite spicy so if you're not into it, ask for mild. I like their cocktails and soups, too. Yes, do order extra rice especially for take-out.
The sushi is very average, but if you're in the mood for fusion, a nice addition. Service is great or lousy depending on who's working that night. Sometimes food comes lickety split, other times not, and it's not predictable based on how crowded it is. Cut them some slack and you'll have a tasty little spicy meal. The owner used to be in quite a lot and he's fun. He played in Japan for awhile till his money ran out.
Don't know about the late hours. Many have tried and stopped it, due to a poor turnout - not their fault but the public's (Maiko, Capitol Brasserie now defunct, that cocktail bar on Trinity off Sixth, I think). Believe me, I loved the idea of late-night exotic food. At least there's still Thai Passion on 7th and Congress. Still, Magnolia's - I now prefer the one on Sixth off Mopac - is still a great alternative.
We went there for lunch, a group of four. We all ordered different curries. All in all it was fine. Decent food, nothing remarkable. Service was good but it took some time to get our food.
We probably will go back for lunch, but I am not sure the food warrants the price.
Tried it last week; since they are apparently part of the Thai Spice family the menu is very similar. There is a branch of Thai Spice near my house so I eat there semi-regularly.
I didn't intend to order anything, I just popped in after getting a haircut next door to grab a takeout menu. No takeout menus yet (!), so I scanned the regular menu. Figured since I was there I may as well order something as it was lunchtime.
Got an order of Pad Se Ew (chicken), brought it back to the office and it was just like Thai Spice, down to the foil wrapper inside of the styrofoam container. The noodles were ok, they must have overcooked them a bit as they were largely shredded. I hate that. Also, I'm used to this dish containing a wider, broad noodle. Why don't any of the local Thai places get this?
I've also heard from some colleagues that the service can be slow while dining in.
I went there last night for take-out. I got Sesame chicken (not thai or sushi, I know, but it sounded like what I felt like). They asked me what rice I wanted - I picked brown rice, then sat and waited.
When my food came out, I took it, hopped in my car, and drove home. I got there to find that the box was half empty, and there was no rice at all. Now, Crave doesn't have a listed number yet, so I had to drive all the way back and rectify the situation myself.
I told them what happened. They got a manager. I told him what happened. He asked, quite professionally, what he could do to make it right. I said, "I just want dinner..." - he said he'd get on it and get a proper one cooked.
Sounded good. I saw down... only to find out that the kitchen was already closed. So they couldn't help me out.
They refunded my money, which seemed appropriate, but the whole experience still kinda bugged me. I want to give them another chance, if for no other reason than that the manager really did try to help me out, after the kitchen, or whomever it was, really screwed up.
Still, it was pretty crappy to have to go through this whole process, only to be told that there would be no food in my near future - and after the time it took, every other restaurant nearby had already closed, too. Grrr.
I have been to Crave many many times since it opened. Originally it was open until four in the morning on Friday and Saturday, and I went there many times around 2 am. The service was and still is Excellent, as well as the food. I am vegan, so, I always have to customize my order and they are always awesome about it. Several times, the head chef would come out and ask if everything came out to my liking. That has never happened to me at a restaurant! The buddha roles there are DELICIOUS, also. Crave is very quickly becoming my favorite restaurant in Austin.
Take not, however, that they have recently decided to not do the 4 am Fri/Sat until Fall. Which makes sense, because thats when all the students will be in town.
Went back for lunch today and was disappointed. Got sat at the bar behind a steel wall and the server didn't see me for several minutes. Ordered the bento box lunch special with chicken pad thai (also comes with miso soup, veggie tempura, chicken spring rolls, 4 pc. california rolls). The hot food came out either tepid or cold, with the exception of the pad thai, which looked like stir-fried dog food. Nothing was particularly delicious, and there were shrimp tails in my pad thai. My CHICKEN pad thai. Server was contrite, but I was totally grossed out and probably won't be back -- I think I'll just go to Madam Mam's for my curry fix.
My husband and I just had dinner there last night - we were very impressed. The service was great and the food was delicious. He had the green curry fried rice - highly recommended! I had the red curry. Nice and spicy. We can't wait to go back to try the rest of the menu.
Our waitress said they have Kenichi's former sushi chef...