'Thai Food Express'...Wallingford, CT
Amongst all other meals lately I haven't been able to squeeze in a proper sit down Thai version despite a hankering to do so. Curiosity was peeked when I saw that 'Thai Food Express'(also named 'Thai Food Express-Rice N' Noodles') is now operated by a family member of those who have Som Siam in Guilford and Old Saybrook(apparently this owner is a sister of Linda, who owns both SS's). If memory serves me correctly there was another Thai spot here previously but the Advocate article below indicates 'TFE' opening some time around May '09. Perhaps another case of a different restaurant assuming a spot and many including myself not knowing?
Either way, I figured to try them while passing through even though my first attempt last weekend was delayed. Yep, CT "weather wimps" forced many restaurants to close early. Crazed shoppers chose to take the last Saturday before Christmas that's normally reserved for trampling big-box menageries and massacring malls to instead focus on overrunning the usual grocery chain slop-stops to prepare for a storm that arrived MANY hours later than what was predicted. You weren't one of "them" were you? ;)
Much like any take-out focused establishment that serves food probably best enjoyed ASAP after preparation there were higher and lower points. They do have a few tables and I do not want to discourage what could be otherwise be a good dining experience but I will have to see if the heating situation is improved to do this(see article). With that said owner and her server/customer helper were very polite and extremely kind.
Among the several items that I took away, I began with their starters of 'Tom Yum Soup'($3.25), 'Crispy Spring Rolls'($3.00), and 'Waterfall Salad'($5.95). I felt the salad wasn't entirely as described("Sliced charcoal-grilled steak with lime juice, chilies, roasted rice powder, and mint leaves") as the mixed greens that were served had little(if any?) mint and noticeably scant amounts of rice powder. The beef was tender and flavorful but I would opt for trying the special 'Papaya Salad' listed that night my next time out. The 'Spring Rolls' were good enough in that I would try one of two house variations of rolls offered that night as well on a return visit. Hoping the 'Tom Yum' spicy shrimp soup was as good as what DonShirer described having at Som Siam East, I at least saw the ingredients offering at what he enjoyed in his sit down lunch posted on that restaurant's thread. With what would be a recurring basis of variation, I found the "warning peppers" listed on the menu to not be accurate. Both salad and soup had two-pepper symbols but neither was particularly spicy so be sure to specify if you are expecting a little tongue-tingling as I was. As to the prices, yes it is a different creature in being primarily take-out but the lower prices compared to other sit-down equivalents allowed much more sampling at 'TFE'.
Among the five sections of the menu there are: 1) Six different 'Curry' preparations with Rice, 2) Over a dozen different 'Stir-Fry' preparations with Rice, 3) Five different 'Fried Rice' preparations, 4) Four different 'Stir Fry Noodles' preparations, and 5) Eight different 'Noodles in Soup' preparations. They are priced at either $6.95(your choice of Chicken, Beef, Pork, Vegetable, or Tofu) or $7.95(your choice of Shrimp, Squid, or Duck). Within each section there are stand-alone dishes with specific ingredients and with the noodle dishes there are choices of the actual noodle themselves: Rice, Egg, Udon, Clear, Vermicelli, and 'Mama'(Thai egg).
In keeping with touching upon many options I had four main dishes : 'Red Curry' prepared with Duck(red curry sauce with bamboo shoots,carrots, pineapple, zucchini, and basil), 'Running Lamb'(lamb cube stir-fried with Thai herbs in curry sauce...also available with a hot basil sauce), 'Pad Prik King' with Crispy Pork(described as "long bean and prik king sauce") and 'Drunken Noodles' with Squid(spicy pan fried flat rice noodles with fresh vegetables, fresh chilies, egg, and hot basil). They handled the duck quite well where I could see never ordering that "other fowl"(chicken really has to strike me in a unique preparation for me to bother at all) and the lamb was done rather nicely too but with these dishes their two-pepper and especially three-pepper symbol spiciness for the latter didn't register on this guy's palate. The 'Pad Prik King' was a mildly zesty citrusy sauce with the best variety of veggies(but no "long beans" unless I'm just totally lost) and the 'Drunken Noodles' had me "intoxicated" with nicely prepared and attractively scored large pieces of squid.
Overall with what I ordered and with now having better ideas of what I could probably most enjoy(plus the reasonably priced menu and convenient location), I will check out 'TFE' on another night when "take-out with a twist" is in order. With another visit I can then tell if they'll join 'Taqueria Mexico'(lingua, cabeza, and tripe oh my!) as good eats when driving the Chow-mobile through "Wallyworld".
New Haven Advocate, Thai Food Express-11/09:
Did you ever say "I don't want to go to Wallyworld" or "Wally World is overrated"?:
Thai Food Express
628 S Colony Rd Ste A, Wallingford, CT 06492
We tried here this weekend--overall, it was very good takeout at very reasonable prices. We had the shumai for an appetizer--little purses of chicken and shrimp with a dipping sauce. For our lunches, we had the drunken noodles, which was pleasantly spicy without it being overkill and the Pad See Ew, which was basically just like the drunken noodles, without the heat. Great size portions for $6.95 each. Be aware--cash only here. Since we live a stone's throw away, we look forward to enjoying takeout here more often.
By the way, noreservations--we got 2 small containers with some sort of opaque mixture that had corn and beans in it--any idea what it could have been? Did you get these also?
Just after the holidays I was in the area masquerading as a good son who actually sees his folks so I stopped for visit number two. I stand by my original conclusion that if nearby or convenient to you 'TFE' would suit a day or night where "take out with a twist" is in order given their reasonably priced menu and location. I'd imagine that you talented cooks out there probably stop, shop, and get out of dodge or go down the road to 'Taqueria Mexico' before or after visiting 'Chef's Equipment Emporium' but on this night I just needed some good eats after being cross-examined by family: "How come you don't call or visit more often?". Gotta love em'.
A note of good news, this visit I recognized 'TFE' as "The Glenn Frey of Thai" for I proclaimed 'The Heat Is On'....hey-oooh. Unlike last time, the establishment itself was warm and toasty AND the dishes of supposed spiciness were as promised(but to somewhat of an extreme in the other direction). Wanting to try a variation of the 'Crispy Spring Rolls' I had on the first visit, I ordered one of two other options offered that night...not a good move(we'll leave it at that). Same for the 'Tom Ka Kai' soup. Hoping for a taste of what interested me on the 'Son Siam East' menu(which is 'Tom-Kha Gai' and described as "a zesty, spicy, and sour soup blended with chicken, coconut milk, mushrooms, lemon grass" etc.), this singular-note hitting soup might have given me a slight taste of what the ingredients could deliver in a proper sit down meal but not much more. I'd likely go with the first visit's 'Tom Yum' soup with shrimp here or 'Tom-Yum Goong' elsewhere. For an alternate selection to the 'Waterfall Salad' described in the first post I wanted to try the 'Somtum Salad'(as they spell it), the Papaya salad with fresh chiles, crushed peanuts, and lime juice which I assumed would be a good indicator dish of a benchmark Thai offering. Despite being listed on their board of specials I was told after ordering it wasn't available. The "Glen Frey of Thai" quickly turned into one of Tom Petty's "Heartbreakers". Let a guy down easier next time could you please? :) .
For take-away mains I chose the 'Green Curry'(same primary ingredients as the 'Red Curry' the first time out but instead of duck I chose pork), the 'South Sea Noodles' prepared with Squid(which were "Mama" or Thai egg noodles with celery, onion, carrots, mushroom, egg, and spicy sauce), the 'Pad Kaprow' prepared with Duck(mushrooms, onions, and attractively sliced carrots stir-fried with hot basil, fresh chile, and garlic), and finally the 'Running Lamb'(I opted for the hot basil sauce instead of the curry sauce which I tried before ). With the last two dishes the lack of spiciness I noted my first visit would be far different on trip two.
With both the 'Pad Kaprow'(two "warning pepper" symbols of spiciness) and the 'Running Lamb'(three symbol)...holy freakin' Chowhound they were HOT. I tolerate and welcome spiciness- in food and all else in life ;) ...but goodness Graceland, even my limits were tested. When the menu says "Hot" basil they're certainly not referring to serving temperature! Just a warning that when ordering anything with this here you might need a "safe word" when your sensory "boundaries" have been crossed("Giggity-giggity" says Glenn "Just Say When" Quagmire). As mentioned before, if you should happen to try 'TFE' just be specific as to what you expect on either side of the spiciness spectrum in any dish but particularly that "Bastard-Basil". The 'South Sea Noodles' were a nice option since I also enjoyed their 'Drunken Noodles' the first time here and as with that initial stop I ordered this dish with beautifully scored large pieces of squid(from the mantle of the animal baby). While I'm as 'Green' in Thai cuisine as the curry sauce I tried this time around, I find I generally prefer 'Red Curry' more but it was certainly worth testing the waters and trying something quite different.
Aside from the squid, the actual pieces of the other meats weren't as generous and carefully cut like the nice slices of duck with skin and the crispy pork on my first sampling a little while back(there was a different younger lady cooking this night). Still worth it in the end, these two visits will likely see me return in time but more importantly they renewed and peeked an interest in exploring other Thai restaurants and eventually going back to the couple of others outside this area which I had rather nice meals at in the past.
"Warning-peppers" of spiciness? My poor burning mouth: "The roof, the roof was on fire":
(as with much else in life the last two minutes are best)