Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Thai Wasabi - Thai Done Right
Hubby and I have been on the lookout for our new "favorite" Thai place in town. We've tried Tropical Thai, Bangkok Thai and even Drunken Poet only to utter "meh" or "it's okay." That's not what you want from Thai - a cuisine specifically known for it's powerful pack of flavor in both spicy and sweet varieties. If you take a forkful of Thai food and don't groan in utter joy, spit it out, leave immediately and don't look back!
One Friday night, I wanted Thai so badly that I was as itchy as an addict. To get my fix, I resorted to what George W. Bush likes to call "The Google." As I was poking around, I noticed that Bradenton had an UNREAL proportion of Thai restaurants. I swear Bradenton must have more Thai restaurants than all the rest of the Florida cities combined! What's up with that Bradenton? I figured that a city so devoted to the cuisine must know what they're doing, so we decided to try one out. The name that kept popping up attached to rave reviews was Thai Wasabi, so that's where we headed out to.
For those of you who don't live close to Bradenton, breathe easy, as Thai Wasabi also has a Sarasota location off Clark Rd. But for us, the S.R. 64 location was a short 15 min drive up I-75. If the name isn't revealing enough, they serve both Thai and Japanese cuisine (including sushi). The Bradenton location is a trendy little spot, decorated in red, green and black with light wood tables. The servers are plentiful and perceptively attentive. One server even asked what must have been a regular, "no Thai tea tonight?" He shook his head and said he was hoping to save room for dessert as he threw what (I think) was another fried wonton in his mouth.
I have to admit, we were a bit nervous as the majority of people in the restaurant were ordering sushi. I started to wonder if maybe the sushi was the better bet, as it's awfully hard to master 2 cuisines, even when they're from similar countries. But my heart and my tastebuds were set on Pad Thai, and I wasn't about to turn back now. To start, we ordered up two of Mom & Dad's Egg Rolls - pork and veggies, deep fried until golden brown and served with sweet and sour sauce.
They came out piping hot, but I couldn't keep my grubby fingers off of them. The crispiness was a nice contrast to the moist texture of the pork, and of course the sauce rounded things off with a pleasant tangy sweetness. After I ate one, I immediately wished I had another. But our main entrees were fast coming. It should be no surprise that I ordered the Pad Thai (mild) and hubby ordered Chicken Fried Rice (medium).
After we each took a bite, hubby and I stopped mid-chew, looked at each other and said "Yep, that's what's up." I consider Pad Thai to be a very complex dish and the sauce is what makes or breaks it. If it's too soupy, the flavor doesn't stick to the noodles or the chicken. If it's too glue-y, the flavor is too concentrated in spots and not in others. Sometimes the sauce errs on the sickly sweet or almost acidic side, and then sometimes it's just a bland brown sauce. But this one, my friends, is perfect. The right consistency, the right sweetness, the right spiciness - just right. As I shoveled bite after glorious bite into my mouth, I could feel the itchiness give way to pure bliss. My only complaint? Not enough crushed peanuts! While they put a sprinkling on the side, I generally like more of a heaping pile to mix throughout my noodles. But seeing as how this is the best Thai I've had in Sarasota, I was not about to make a mountain out of a peanut hill (or lack thereof).
Now, to the Chicken Fried Rice. The flavor of fried rice is also a fine art. It can't just be slathered with soy sauce. For me, it has to have that garlic-y, spicy kick that makes your nose run and your forehead bead up with sweat. The rice also has to have a balance of both sticky and crunchy textures. Again, this rice hit all the right notes. Hubby barely let me have two forkfuls before it altogether disappeared. Hey Mikey, he likes it!
As we caressed our pleasantly plump bellies on the way out, we talked about coming back to try the sushi. It's a nice thought, but I imagine the Thai will always be a little too hard to pass up.
Atmosphere - B
Taste - A
Presentation - B
Service - A
Price - $$
5250 East State Road 64 (Bennett Plaza)
Bradenton, FL 34208