Thai food served with authentic, exotic touches
By Mark Taylor Post-Tribune correspondent February 29, 2012 2:40PM
Appetizers range from $3.95 for the West Side wonton, Thai toast or tofu tod; $4.25 for the dynamite wings, Thai rolls or our steamed dumplings; $5.25 for our mee krob and $6.50 for the Thai beef jerky. Rice and noodle dishes are $7.95 to $9.95. Our glass noodles cost $8.95, the same price at the four curries offered. Vegetable, meat and seafood entrees cost $8.95 to $15.95, including our barbecue chicken ($9.95) and fire-grilled salmon ($13.95). Desserts are $2.95 for our cheesecake and $4.25 for the fried bananas.
If you go
What: Exotic Thai Cuisine
Where: 9628 Indianapolis Blvd. (U.S. 41) in Highland
Hours: Lunch and dinner 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner only 11 a.m. -10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Updated: April 3, 2012 8:05AM
It was a cold, wet and windy evening when weather forecasters were predicting a major winter storm.
Much like the television political pundits, however, their prognostications never materialized.
But they had the effect of clearing the streets and only a few brave diners emerged from their cozy dens on this wicked winter night. But they were rewarded with prompt and grateful service and no waits for tables.
My wife and I were among a handful of people at Exotic Thai Cuisine in Highland that night, and we wouldn’t have known this eatery was open if the sign hadn’t told us. We were quickly seated and ordered hot tea, a Thai beer and some appetizers to fortify us against the cold.
Exotic Thai Cuisine is a dimly lit eatery with two dining rooms connected by a lovely foyer that boasts a collection of potted and intricately shaped bamboo plants, a small koi pond and an elegant, open air wooden shelf featuring plants and sculptures.
Our starters arrived quickly and we tore into them ravenously. The steamed dumplings included four soft dumplings stuffed with a ground pork mixture and served over lettuce with a soy-and-ginger-based dipping sauce and sprigs of cilantro. The mee krob — which I mistakenly pronounced “microbe,” was a texturally pleasing dish that included thin, crispy noodles with shrimp and chicken served with chopped cucumbers and bean sprouts. Mee krob is prepared with Thai rice vermicelli and topped with a light, slightly sweet and citrusy sauce . It’s a satisfying treat.
We split three entrees — a noodle, seafood and poultry dish. The glass noodles are transparent pasta noodles made from bean starch and sautéed with egg and vegetables . We ordered ours with beef, but they can be ordered without meat or shrimp. The thinly sliced beef was almost extraneous. We also chose the barbecue chicken, a one-half marinated chicken dish that was billed as a house signature dish. Perhaps it was the weather, but ours did not taste freshly prepared and was dry and nearly flavorless. The sweet red dipping sauce that accompanied it was treacle.
Much better was the fire-grilled salmon, a filet of Atlantic salmon grilled and served over a bed of lightly sautéed cabbage and topped with a red curry sauce. The basil and wild lime leaves added an exotic touch, and the fish was flavorful and nicely prepared. But the red curry was the star . It is made with curry paste (including garlic, shallots, dry red chili peppers, coriander and cumin) mixed with coconut milk. I couldn’t get enough of it and mixed it with my white rice and veggies.
For dessert we ordered the fried bananas and ice cream. Slices of banana were wrapped in a thin pastry shell and deep fried, drained and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream . Not only was it lovely to behold, but satisfied our urge for something sweet. We also sampled the cheesecake, which reminded me of key lime pie. It was a light tasting cheesecake filling blended with lime zest and juice and served over a graham cracker crumb crust, a pleasant surprise.
Post-Tribune restaurant critic Mark Taylor will lead an introductory wine class on three consecutive Wednesdays in March at the historic Whiting Community Center. Wine a ppreciation 101 is a basic beginner’s course starting at 7 p.m. March 14, 21 and 28 at the community center, 1938 Clark St., Whiting. Those signing up will learn about the history and process of making wine as they taste different varieties and learn to recognize wines and how to pair them with foods. Each week students will sample six different wines to compare and contrast . Those attending will also learn how to demystify the snobbery of ordering wine in restaurants and buying bottles as gifts. Registration ends March 7. Call 659-0860 to learn more. Taylor is a former waiter, wine salesman and food writer.