Citizen Staff Writer
What: Bai Thong Authentic Thai Cuisine
Address and phone: 4853 E. Speedway Blvd., 881-5068
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Fridays, 5-10 p.m. Saturdays, 5-9 p.m. Sundays
What was ordered: L-1 Panang Curry lunch special ($5.50), L-9 Thai Sweet & Sour lunch special ($5.50), Thai Iced Coffee ($2), Lemonade ($2) for a total of $16.22 including tax, well within our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for under $20.
Comments: Bai Thong looks and feels like your prototypical, old-school Thai restaurant.
Its mundane midtown, strip-mall location and less-than-enthusiastic atmosphere and service stand in stark contrast to its vibrant fare.
For $5.50, the 10 lunch specials offered at Bai Thai are excellent deals, as they come with soup, egg roll, won ton and steamed rice. The two specials we had would have been worth $5.50 all by themselves, though it was nice to spice up the rice with the excellent sauces featured in both dishes.
The Panang Curry contained sauteed beef slices with fresh basil in a smooth, terra-cotta colored broth laden with the flavors of rich coconut milk and red chile. Served in a soup bowl, the panang expertly balanced the savory beef with the sweetness of the coconut milk and basil leaves and the heat of the curry and chile.
The bowl of Thai Sweet & Sour featured stir-fried chicken, bell pepper, carrot, onion, tomato and celery in a sweet and sour sauce that lacked the cloying clumpiness of cornstarch-thickened versions. Instead, this spicy version came off closer to a rich, classic reduction one might find accompanying a rack of lamb, were it not for the ubiquitous vermillion hue. The chicken was nicely portioned and well-sized with the cut vegetables.
We found the accompanying elements – egg roll, won ton and rice – to be of decent quality, but not notably different than what you’d expect to encounter with a lunch special at your average Chinese joint.
The soup, however, was refreshingly light and fresh, with delicate rice noodles and crunchy-fresh broccoli spears dunked in the clear chicken broth.
Service: The matriarch of the establishment acted as hostess, cashier and lone server on this recent weekday lunch rush. She wasn’t the most gracious person we’d ever met, and she didn’t exactly set any land speed records seating us, taking our orders, delivering the food and drinks, or ringing us up. She was, however, efficient and professional, and she gave us decent, no-nonsense service, including complimentary drink refills. If you’re in a big hurry, you probably want to hold off on lunching at Bai Thong. This is not fast food. You could probably get in and out of here in an hour on most weekdays, maybe 45 minutes if you really push it. The food is worth savoring, so go when you have the time to do so.
Bar: beer and wine
Children’s menu: no Web site: no
Most recent health inspection: A “good” rating May 20. A critical violation was reported for food separation, packaging, segregation and substitution methods not preventing food and ingredient contamination.