Stepping into the pragmatically named Thai Cuisine II is like taking a 15-hour plane ride in the blink of an eye. While it’s not exactly Thailand inside, the dining room is a pleasant sanctuary, warmly painted in earthy red and sunset orange, and hung with near-florescent paintings of colorful, idyllic scenes. You quickly forget that you just walked into a red metal roofed A-frame that looks like an old Dairy Queen.
The menu’s large selection of salads is a strong suit. The green papaya salad (som tum) was crispy and delicate, just fishy and limey enough, if a bit small. The trout salad, meanwhile, was huge in every way. A large, tempura-fried piece of red trout flesh was buried under a colorful and fragrant salad, topped with roasted peanuts, and drenched in a tangy tamarind dressing. Not to be missed.
If there were a Best of Burque category for house-made condiments at restaurants, this would be a contender.
One afternoon, a phoned-in take-out order took disappointingly long time—20 minutes, and the restaurant wasn’t very busy. It seemed like they didn’t start making the food until I got there. Another woman arrived after me, and I watched her experience the same thing.
I finally made it home with some very good pad thai and perhaps the best tom yum I’ve had in town. The sweat-inducing, sour-and-spicy tomato soup was potent and assertive with the right balance of tamarind, galanga, ginger and lemongrass.
Pad kee mow didn’t come together as perfectly. The stir-fried wide rice noodles with egg, chiles, tomatoes, garlic, basil and broccoli looked good on paper, but it just didn’t work. (Although if I wasn’t going back and forth between it and that pad thai, I may not have noticed as acutely.)
On my next visit I ordered guay teow soup, a kind of Thai-style pho that comes with chicken or veggie broth. You also get your choice of proteins, and I went with mussels. It was a satisfying noodle soup, hitting my pho-spot in a maritime way, even if the side salad was weak compared to what you get in a Viet place. Pad cha, a stir-fry flavored with krachai rhizome, was chock-full of snap peas, zucchini, carrots, peppers and basil. Rhizome is a type of root found in spreading plants like bamboo, and it lent the dish a mild gingery flavor that I’d never experienced. Pineapple red curry was spicy, sweet, fragrant and creamy with coconut—basically, what I want in a curry.
In fact, despite a few stumbles, this place is what I want in a Thai restaurant. I left curious, with many intriguing menu items urging me to hurry back. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of what that A-framed kitchen can do.