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Pho Thai Lao in Maywood Thoughts

z
zhelder Jun 30, 2011 07:47 PM

Well, I got excited about a potentially good, moderately priced Thai restaurant opening in Bergen County, so I made the trek to Pho Thai Lao in Maywood tonight to get some take-out.

In a nutshell, it was a disappointment.

OK, let's start with the positives. Their prices are good. The tom yum koong soup was good, with a nice spicy kick and nice flavors. The appetizers I tried, spring rolls and chicken satay, were each good, although, as is usually the case with Thai appetizers, the portions were small. Still, they were priced right at $3 each.

The entrees are where things go really downhill.

I ordered my standby dishes: moderately spicy chicken pad thai and pork pad see ew with American broccoli (I find Chinese broccoli to be too bitter for my taste.) Both were lousy. Not quite terrible or inedible, but not good. The pad thai noodles looked and tasted like vermicelli to me, and there was absolutely no hint of Thai spices, heat, or flavoring whatsoever in the dish. It seemed like it was just noodles, chicken, bean sprouts, and peanuts mixed together. The pad see ew was even worse. The "sauce" seemed to be just plain brown gravy. No sweetness, no soy flavoring, just meat, noodles, broccoli, and brown. Oh, and there were ONIONS in the pad see ew! First time I ever encountered that, and not being an onion fan (I always ask for no onions or no scallions when I order Thai dishes that I think will have them), that turned me off even more to an already pretty lousy dish. Prices were good at $8 each, but the portions were small.

The place is small, and a bit hard to find. It's in a tiny old rundown strip mall on Maywood Avenue, but their sign is small and a tree blocks the view of it from the road. It's a small place too.

Having gone to Midland Thai in Midland Park a couple of weeks ago and finding that experience to be mostly positive, I was really hoping to be able to add another Thai restaurant to my rotation. Until Pho Thai Lao fixes their entrees, however, I'm going to have to pass on them and go to my old standby Wondees (still the champ of Bergen County for me) or Midland Thai instead.

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Wondee Cafe
296 Main St, Hackensack, NJ 07601

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  1. y
    yogi70 Jul 5, 2011 01:42 PM

    that stinks. maybe ill skip this place and try one of the other 2 places i mentioned previously that have opened recently in maywood, session bistro, and the indian place. darn. guess ill have to try Pimaan, where it seems everyone reccomends as solid a Thai place, in the area.

    1. tommy Jul 14, 2011 03:59 PM

      Had a very pleasant pad thai here. Not goppy and sweet. But rather bright and alive. I love that style, but you don't find it often.

      I've had pad thai at many restaurants all over the US and at a few places in europe (although never thailand), and the dish is not usually spicy, at least in my experience. However, this place asks if you want it spicy, and they add heat in the form of a sambal like mixture. I had it on the side, just to try it.

      The 2 dollar surcharge on a couple of tiny shrimp is probably a little out of line with the rest of the pricing, however.

      Looking forward to trying some of the Lao-influenced dishes. And I'm hoping the kitchen is enthusiastic and receptive to requests of authentic food. I want to eat like their grandparents did.

      1. f
        foodaholic8 Nov 23, 2011 07:29 PM

        I love the food here. I go back almost once a week. It really is like you are eating in a thai mother's kitchen. There really is a thai mother in the kitchen and everyone is really very friendly. The food is fresh and made as you order it. Perhaps give it a try and see what you think.

        1. Ike Jul 30, 2012 10:05 PM

          I went to Pho Thai Lao for the first time recently and enjoyed it. We tried to mostly order Laotian dishes. I've been to Laos and this food seemed authentic to me, though I'm no expert. We had a conch larb. I'm not crazy about conch but my dining companions liked it. The spicing in the larb was very good. One of my dining companions really loves spicy food and she was happy that the request for very spicy actually came out very spicy. As for the Thai portion of the menu, we got a green curry. It was very good. It was not the best green curry I've ever had, but I wouldn't hesitate to get it again. The sticky rice was very good too. I liked the decor as well.

          After seeing a lot of bad or mediocre reviews on Yelp, I was ready to be disappointed but I was impressed. Maybe their standard run-of-the-mill Thai dishes don't taste like what people are expecting from Americanized Thai restaurants? Or maybe they are inconsistent?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Ike
            z
            zhelder Aug 15, 2012 05:02 PM

            I'm really surprised at all the positive reviews I'm seeing of this place. When I went there a little over a year ago, the entrees I got were really lousy. I don't know if it was because of new opening jitters or because they tamed some stuff down based on my non-Asian ethnicity, but I really had no intention of coming back to this place.

            Now, I might have to give them another chance. I see their prices have increased (a lot!) since they first opened, but maybe that is translating into better food. Maybe I'll check them out again for some lunch specials to see if things have indeed changed.

            1. re: zhelder
              tommy Aug 15, 2012 05:03 PM

              Get the Lao fish larb. I doubt you'll be disappointed

              1. re: zhelder
                s
                solarstar Aug 17, 2012 04:09 PM

                I agree - the larb gai, larb nuer, and fish larb are unusual and taste really fresh with a nice hit of galangal & fish sauce flavors. I always liked their noodle soups, but some of the more widespread Thai dishes I've had there (chicken satay, fried tofu with peanut sauce, green/red curry, pad see ew, pad khee mao) didn't really blow me away.

            2. l
              lemarais Aug 22, 2012 06:26 AM

              All the Lao dishes are extremely authentic, IMO. Plus a touch of the exotic, since we don't get this cuisine hardly anywhere else. They are all served at room temperature, and wonderful!

              1 Reply
              1. re: lemarais
                f
                foodaholic8 Aug 22, 2012 08:30 PM

                I love the lao dishes. I also really like the curry and noodle dishes. I have been told that they are authentically thai by my thai friends. I hope you have all tried the papaya salad! It's delish!

              2. l
                lemarais Sep 11, 2012 05:35 PM

                Nice review in the NY Times last Sunday. Got a "Worth It".

                2 Replies
                1. re: lemarais
                  tommy Sep 11, 2012 05:45 PM

                  It's so worth it. There's been talk about the Thai dishes not being very good, but in my experience they've been a nice departure from what I feel is overly sweet Thai dishes in the area. And I've also experienced the kitchen's hospitality when it comes to making things "more authentic." A good spot, and one where you can eat very well. Service has been very gracious as well.

                  1. re: tommy
                    f
                    foodaholic8 Sep 11, 2012 06:17 PM

                    Tommy, I totally agree with you! I find the food here very fresh, flavorful, and authentic? There curry is like no other ... Oh I could go on and on

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