Alibi V.25 No.2 • Jan 14-20, 2016 

Restaurant Review

Thai Enlightenment

The mind-bending menu of Thai Cuisine

Thai Cuisine
6200 Coors NW
My wife has troubling news written on her face in capital letters. Our drive to Thai Cuisine was pleasant enough, but sometime after the fish cakes ($5.95) with a sweet cucumber dipping sauce have disappeared, her mood turns. Her face strains under some invisible pressure. Perspiration dots her upper lip and builds beneath her glassy eyes. She takes sharp gasps before covering the bottom half of her face and averting her gaze.

The dining room is bustling comfortably, and everyone is too involved in their feasting to notice any terrible scene that might erupt at our table. The air is thick. With my fingers tightly clamped to the edge of the table, I push out the question that is fighting to stay inside. “Is everything ok?”

Tears are in her eyes. “Spicy,” she hisses between her teeth. Ah. The infamous Thai spice. It turns grown men into quivering jellies and quivering jellies into molecular dust. She's usually immune to the heat—the type of woman who washes down ghost peppers with a cooling shot of Tabasco—and the loss of her composure is disconcerting. Before her lies a half-empty bowl of thom-yum ($9.95), a fragrant soup littered with lemongrass, galangal, mushrooms and kaffir lime leaves. I sneak a spoonful while she dabs at her eyes with a napkin and am immediately enamored with the sour taste that quickly slips into clean citrusy territories. Like all great Thai food, the flavors come in one at a time in clear increments, as if they were patiently waiting in line to be presented to your taste buds. Then my mouth catches up with the heat.

Thai Cuisine gives you a choice on how spicy you want your food to be. My wife's was “medium”—halfway up the scale—which, after imbibing the smallest of sips, is enough to give me visions of what I can only describe as a higher plane of reality for at least half a minute. I come out of my brush with hallucenogenic reverie in time to see my wife take a shuddering breath of determination before spooning more of the molten matter into her mouth.

Thom-yum soup
Thom-yum soup
I've ordered the thom-kha ($9.95), a sweet and spicy coconut-based soup that will hopefully become the flagship fare of what is sure to become known as the “Coconut panic of 2016.” About halfway through, I look casually around the room to make sure no one's looking before I pick up the whole bowl and gulp.

Over the rim, I see the waiter walking toward us with our entrées. We make eye contact for half a second before he glazes over in a state of nonjudgmental professionalism. It's obviously not his first time. He smiles at my forehead as I wipe my mouth with a napkin and places a steaming bowl of pad-cashew-nut with pork ($9.95) on the table. This favorite of mine betrays the chef's controlled touch with textures perfectly layered from crisp water chestnuts and carrots to plump mushrooms, all floating in a savory sauce.

My wife chose a pad-lad-nah ($9.95) with tofu. It's so beautiful that I feel a twinge of loss as she pokes a head of broccoli out of the tangy gravy. Wide noodles and golden tofu begin to disappear at an alarming pace. Her eyes stay locked onto her meal, even as she reaches for her water while wiping tears from her cheeks. Her fork, unconsciously guided, glides around the perimeter of her plate, guarding the goods from most of my advances. I manage to snatch some of the gravy and half of a tofu square.

At some point during the haze that follows, I order fresh spring rolls ($4.95) to go. Most of my impressions of the experience are already fading, leaving only the impression of an incredible, subtly crafted meal that excited and satisfied my pleasure centers. And if that's the sort of thing you're after, then by all means make Thai Cuisine your next dinner destination.

But here's the thing: There's an option on the menu called “Thai Hot,” and I can't help but imagine that out there is some person (not myself, obviously) with the physical and spiritual fortitude to withstand what I'm sure is a blistering white furnace that burns away the line between object and observer. I bet it's better than marriage counseling.

Thai Cuisine

6200 Coors NW
890-3406
thethaicuisinenm.com
Hours: 11am to 3pm, 5pm-9pm Monday through Saturday
4pm to 8pm Sunday
Vibe: Relaxed and casual
Extras: Reach full enlightenment
Alibi recommends: Fish cakes, thom-kha and pad-lad-nah