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Feb 4, 2011 12:33 PM

Thai Noodle represents sugary, flavorless Americanized Thai food at its worst [Berkeley]

Yesterday, I went to two Thai resturants. The first was an intentional trip to Ler Ros Thai, which as many chowhounders know, is the most amazing Thai resturant with incredible, complex flavors and commitment to authenticity.

Unfortunately, I also went to Thai Noodles yesterday as well. This was not planned, but a long bike ride after dark turned out to be longer than expected, and we got to Berkeley past 9:30 and absolutely starving. Thai Noodle was the first place we saw that was open, and I remebered reading favorable Yelp reviews and decided to try it.

I ordered the pumpkin red curry. It was absolutely horrible. It was obviously extremely watery, and when I first tasted it, it was overwhelmingly and disgustingly sweet. It was like sugar water with a bit of coconut and yellow coloring. I asked for fish sauce, and through the liberal application of dried chili, fish sauce and vinegar I was able to make it edible. Keep in mind, I had just finished a 30 mile bike ride and was absolutely ravenous, and it still tasted horrible.

Once I got the flavor to a decent (though not good) point, I then tried the pumpkin. It was barely cooked. I couldn't eat it. The bell peppers were essentially raw. And sadly, the pork was overcooked. I don't understand how you can create a dish that is simultaneously undercooked and overcooked, but they managed it. I would have sent it back but I was too hungry to wait so I just doused it all in sambal olek and ate it. The rice luckily was edible.

I also tried my companion's dish, he got thai bbq over rice. It tasted like bad Chinese food.

Overall, I would say that this place represents everything that is bad about Americanized Thai food. I would never, ever go back here. I also don't understand all the positive reviews on Yelp. I guess Americans love bland, sugary food.

Has anyone had a positive experience here? This place should be avoided at all costs if you are a foodie!

Thai Noodles
1936 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

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  1. "I also don't understand all the positive reviews on Yelp."
    This is sarcasm, right?

    3 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      um, not really. Cause i went to Yelp and there were all these people who were like "5 stars! My favorite Thai restaurant ever! I LOVE THIS PLACE"

      I'm wondering exactly WHAT anyone could enjoy about Thai Noodle

      You ever been?

      1. re: wokwok

        I went once. I did not report to either chowhound or yelp.

        1. re: wokwok

          yelp: to give a quick, sharp, shrill cry, as a dog or fox.
          2. to call or cry out sharply: The boy yelped in pain when the horse stepped on his foot.

          Not much can be expected from yelp-ers. They like it cheap, familiar and democritized with oversized portions. They eat from the pocket and belly than the senses.. Plus, Yelp engaged in unethical business practices.

      2. i asked many thai eateries why their food is often so sweet. most replied.

        -"that's the way the customers want it."
        -"we use thai cane sugar"
        are the most frequent responses.

        1. I used to live around the corner and got their fried rice and pad thai if i was too lazy to cook or go somewhere else. Its not Lers Ros, but those two items filled me up and the place was sufficient to serve as my cheap cafeteria where there was no concern whether the food was authentic. that was 6-8 years ago. i think they target the student market though.

          And I got their fried rice one time after a super long bike ride because they were the only place open at the time.

          But within biking distance, there were many choices fit for a foodie in Berkeley!

          6 Replies
          1. re: ckshen

            "i think they target the student market though."
            Relatively inexpensive, open late, near campus, certainly the student market but I'll bet not the Thai student market.

            1. re: wolfe

              Interesting story:

              I went here the other day to try the boat noodles, as it's the only place I know now that has a history of making it close to how I like it. I had had the same dish at another Berkeley Thai restaurant a day or two before.

              Halfway through my meal, a young waitress from that other Thai place came in, chatted with the Thai Noodle waitresses for a while, and left with her meal to go, which she had called in earlier.

              Now, I only ever order Boat Noodle or Pad Kee Mao at this place, but they've always been good to me. This last bowl of Boat noodle was almost as good as the better Thai Town establishments (LA). Broth was dark and bloody, redolent of cassia and five spice and white pepper. With a bit of chili vinegar, it came out perfectly. There was one significant flaw: instead of raw beef cooked in the soup as one of the beef components, they used a few chunks of beef that had been prepped for stir fry, which sucked. But the beef ball and stewed chuck also included were good.

              I think it's a little unfair to slag a place as terrible because of a too-sweet pumpkin curry, any more than it would be reasonable of me to call this place good overall because of its boat noodle. Anyway, any place that makes boat noodle like this is not 100% Americanized, almost by definition.

              1. re: twocents

                Yup. Considering the favorable posts below on yen ta fo, pad kee mao, and duck noodle soup in addition to your report on the boat noodles...maybe the name hints at what one should order? ;)

            2. re: ckshen

              yes, that is exactly what happened to me. I should have stuck with the fried rice...that is a hard dish to render inedible. I was so cold and so excited about warm coconut milk though! And yes, berkeley is amazing in terms of food selection, but after 9:30 everything closes! Are there any places that are open late that AREN'T horrible college food? Because I might end up ravenous after a long bike ride in downtown berkeley at night again, and I will never go back to Thai Noodle!

              1. re: wokwok

                Here is the Lauriston Late List 2009 edition. I'm syre there is an update.

                1. re: wokwok

                  I've often been disappointed by the lack of late-night dining options near the downtown BART station. My go-to is Arinell Pizza for a quick slice; there's something about eating thin-crust on those checkered floors by the light of the neon sign at 9:30 p.m. that I find inherently enjoyable. But even they close at 10, and this probably doesn't count as what you're looking for.

              2. I've eaten at Thai Noodles on Shattuck a few times because it's open late (1:30am). The spicy calamari, papaya salad, and roast duck were good. Can't remember what else I've had there but I've found it more consistent than Tuk Tuk (also open until 1:30). If I can stand the drive I prefer Daimo.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Which Daimo? Richmond or San Leandro?

                  Personally, I thought SL Daimo was better. I didn't think they are related, but could be wrong.

                  Daimo Chinese Restaurant
                  3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

                  Daimo Chinese Restaurant
                  1456 E 14th St, San Leandro, CA 94577

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I thought the yen ta fo was reasonably tasty at Thai Noodles, and was pleasantly surprised that it was not nearly as sweet as the version I'd had at King of Thai Noodle (the one on Powell I think). Obviously it's no Lers Ros or even Plearn, but it's not trying to be, either. In a noodle joint where all the curry pastes likely come out of a can - and I bet they all use the same brands, too - sticking to the noodle dishes and maybe the less complicated rice plates seems like the way to go.

                    1. re: bigwheel042

                      Yeah, I would never order curry at a place like that, or dishes where they offer a choice of proteins.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        My co-workers like to go there and I've found that the pad kee mao is something they do fairly well. I suspect the issues with canned curry pastes go beyond just starting in a tub, as I can make much better curry at home with packaged curry pastes. The time I ordered a green curry based dish and asked for it very spicy it came out with extra red chili flakes on top, rather than just a higher paste/coconut milk ratio. After the waitress delivered that with a smile, and genuinely inquired if it was spicy enough for me, without realizing the absurdity of the situation I've stuck to ordering the pad kee mao (which may be called Thai kee mao on their menu).

                  2. As a late night food, I'm fond of their duck noodle soup.