Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Thai Flavor

Name: Thai Flavor
Address: 2863 1/2 Erie Blvd E, Syracuse, NY
Phone: (315) 251-1366
Neighborhood: Salt Springs (Erie Boulevard East)
Website: www.thaiflavorsyracuse.com
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Thai
Restaurant Hours: Monday 11 AM to 3 PM, 5 PM to 10 PM, Wednesday to Sunday 11 AM to 3 PM, 5 PM to 10 PM
Parking: Private Lot
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes

On a chilly afternoon in search of some Thai food, I stumbled into this newest restaurant incarnation on Erie Boulevard. To my delight, what was once Little Thai House, is now under new ownership and known as Thai Flavor, Syracuse's newest Thai restaurant.

The interior and exterior haven't changed much from the nice makeover that Little Thai House last year (sans for a new lighted marquee outside). Thai Flavor still maintains much of the refined, intimate, and very tastefully decorations and ambiance of its predecessor with white tablecloths for its booths and tables, cohesive dark colors, appropriate instrumental music playing over the speakers, and Thai sculptures adjourning the entrance way and walls.

Contrary to all my other visits here, I was seated in the window-encased patio section of the restaurant this time around (you know what I mean if you've been here before or to any Wendy's that was built around the 1980's). While the interior of this section could've used a good cleaning and watering of plants, it's not a bad place to sit on the rare afternoon that Syracuse actually has sunlight.

The menu at Thai Flavor is phenomenal and in many cases reads quite differently to not only what you would've found at Little Thai House, but what you're likely find at any other Thai restaurant in Central New York. Selections include Thai soups and salads like the papaya salad, shrimp lemmongrass soup, and tom kah chicken soup (chicken, coconut milk, lemongrass, mushrooms and galangal), appetizers like mock duck satay, grilled fish cakes, and emerald chicken (marinated chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves and herbs), and entrees like chicken jungle curry, beef panang, pad Thai, and see ew beef. Thai Flavor also features a "recommended" section in their menu, which boasts specialties of the house and consist of many traditional dishes found in Thailand. There's quite a few vegetarian dishes listed on the menu as well with tofu or mock duck (which I've had here and it was deceivingly delicious). Tofu can also be substituted upon request for any of the stir fry dishes or curries.

The Som Tam Gai caught my eye under the recommended section (papaya salad with grilled marinated chicken served with sticky rice) but was unavailable. I've never had it and was really looking forward to it as it was noted as a very popular dish in Thailand on the menu. Maybe next time. Instead, I opted for the Chicken Red Mango Curry.

The order...

Thai Dumplings: $7
Chicken Red Mango Curry: $13
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $24.60

Pictured above are the Thai dumplings with marinated chicken and shrimp, chopped water chestnuts and taro root, wrapped inside steamed dumpling rolls, served with a Thai black bean vinaigrette sauce, and garnished with fresh cabbage, flowered carrot, and pandanus leaf.

$7 might seem a tad pricey for a small appetizer, but it's totally worth it. These are some of the best dumplings I've had anywhere. If you've never had Thai cuisine before, one of its best attributes is that you can get a sense of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy all in one bite and you certainly get that with these: shredded shrimp and juicy chicken inside perfectly steamed dumplings and accompanied with a dark, medium-bodied dipping sauce that had hints of chili, plum, and sweet soy sauce that was outstanding (I wanted to drink this like soup, but refrained). Just a great combination of flavors. And I don't know what the garnish was atop the dumplings (it may have been tiny caramelized garlic pieces) but they were delicious and added just the right amount of crunchiness. The other garnishes didn't provide much of an addition other than visual, but still brought a nice heightened presentation to the plate.

Above is the chicken mango curry, comprised of chicken pieces, chunks of mango, sliced red and green peppers, broccoli, carrots, bamboo shoots, zucchini, and sweet basil in a coconut milk and red curry broth.

Best curry I've had so far in 'cuse. The fragrant smell of curry, mango, and vegetables coming out of the dish was unbelievable. As I waited for the steamed rice to be brought to the table, I could've inhaled this smell for the next 85 days.

I'd say "clean" and "refreshing" are two of the best words to describe the taste here (two words everyone secretly wants to hear when talking about good food in general, yes?). I couldn't stop eating it. Everything was there from the heat, the sweetness of the mango, tender chicken pieces, and plenty of well-cooked and varied vegetables. The curry was perfect and had just the right balance of heat and coconut milk. I'd note the heat-scale as a strong medium, as it was just the right amount of spiciness for my personal taste - but they make their dishes spicy upon request here, so be advised. It was a great dish and I'd definitely order it again.

Although it's not pictured here, just to include one small thing about the steamed rice: it was perfect. While it may sound like I'm making a mountain out of an ant hill, I couldn't get over how great it was. This wasn't rice that had been sitting around all day, remained dried and clumped together, was improperly cooked, or wasn't the right style of grain. This was perfectly cooked and appropriate rice that only heightened an already great dish.

Other notes...

- I don't know if they have beer, cocktails, or wine available here or not. I don't recall seeing anything on the menu. If not, it's possible that they're still trying to get their liquor license since it's a new restaurant and all.

- I'm not sure if they offer take-out or not, so please inquire within.

- Their "Prix Fixed" menu runs during lunch hours Mondays through Fridays from 11 AM to 3 PM. $9 gets you a first, second, and third course. My god, this is the best deal ever created for such amazing food. Go check this out if you're looking for a lunch option during the week. Good portion sizes as well.

You can tell when a place prides itself on quality, presentation, and execution. Thai Flavor certainly embodies all three of those. I'm going to reserve the perfect rating until I go here one more time as I haven't ventured passed the dumpling appetizer on my two visits so far (I'm completely addicted to them). I can say that everything I've had here has been outstanding, and I can only assume I'll raise my rating to 5 momentarily. Or maybe by tomorrow.

Welcome to my rotation of frequented restaurants in Syracuse, Thai Flavor.

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