Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thai Thai Cuisine

Name: Thai Thai Cuisine
Location: 584 Court St., Binghamton, NY 13904
Phone: (607) 775-9499
Cuisine: Thai Thai (ha!)
Price: $20 for two

Thai Thai represents the third and final installment in our tour of local Thai restaurants. To recap what's transpired thus far, I liked Endicott's Thai Basil (Grade: A-) for their low-key ambiance and high-quality food, and I enjoyed Johnson City's Sabaidee (Grade: B+) for their good food, very quick service, and extremely low prices, but thought it would serve best as a take-out place. How would Thai Thai (considered by many the best of the three) stack up?

Thai Thai is located in Rocket Plaza just outside Binghamton's city limits on Upper Court St. Keep driving out Court St. until you think you've gone WAY too far, and it's on the right. Look for the rocket, and Madame Oar's strip club. Yeah, this isn't the nicest part of town.

The restaurant is quite small with about 10-12 tables scattered throughout the place. It's a decent little dining room, but nowhere near the dimly-lit atmosphere of Thai Basil, or even the brightly-colored decor of Sabaidee. We were seated, or rather seated ourselves, promptly and ordered drinks shortly thereafter. I decided to try something a little bit different and went with the Thai iced tea. I am not sure what it consisted of, but if I had to guess, I would say it was tea with various spices (maybe tamarind and/or cardamom) served with coconut milk. It was pretty good. I'm not sure it's something I would get every time, but I enjoyed it for what it was. (A note about drinks: they don't serve alcohol, but there's a bottle shop next can get some wine there and BYOB.)

I ordered the Pad Kee Mao ($6.99) with beef as my entree, known to the English-speaking world as Drunken Noodles. This is my go-to dish at Thai restaurants when I can't decide what else to order. It features wide flat noodles with your choice of meat (pork, chicken, or beef) with carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, onions, basil leaf, and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting right now. I ordered it "spicy" and had high hopes for the dish.

It was really good, and REALLY spicy. Consider this a warning: if you order something "spicy" at Thai Thai, prepare for your mouth to be on fire. Me, I like it that way, but if you are bothered by the spiciness of your food, make sure to tell them that. Anyhow, this was a really good dish, maybe slightly better than Thai Basil's equivalent. One small criticism is that some of the broccoli was kind of sorry-looking, but it tasted fine. I would definitely order this dish again, but will probably try out one of their curry dishes on my next visit.

Megan ordered the Pad Thai (also $6.99), what I would probably consider the most popular Thai dish. This consists of rice noodles with bean sprouts and tofu in a tamarind sauce, served with your choice of meat and topped with crushed peanuts. She liked it quite a bit, and I sampled it and found it to be very good. The thing I like most about Thai food is that within each dish there is a real complexity to the flavors and each bite can give you something a little bit different. This Pad Thai certainly had that quality to it. Highly enjoyable and very well done.

Service was a negative at Thai Thai, provided by a disinterested older Caucasian woman. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a waitress display less enthusiasm than this one. Come on, this is a Thai restaurant, and we've got this slow old white woman as the face of the operation? Really? Compare this with the service at Thai Basil, which may also be slow from time to time, but the waitresses are very enthusiastic, friendly, and, ummm, Thai. Not to mention the extremely quick service provided by the gentlemen at Sabaidee. The service wasn't anything that would prevent me from making a return visit to Thai Thai, but it was severely lacking in enthusiasm and speed.

In the end, Thai Thai might very well be the best Thai restaurant in the area from a food perspective. The prices are beyond reasonable, a definite advantage over Thai Basil, which is a little pricier (but still not bad). From a service and atmosphere perspective, Thai Thai is probably the worst of the three. At the end of the day, the Triple Cities are lucky to have three very solid Thai restaurants, and even better, they are evenly spaced out with Thai Thai serving Binghamton's East Side, Sabaidee covering the middle ground in JC, and Thai Basil collecting the Endicott crowd. If I had to choose one place out of the three, it would be Thai Basil, but the other two are extremely worthy establishments and are not far behind.

Grade: B

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