Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Aromatic Flower At Thai Orchid

If you have been a longtime reader of my blog, perhaps you will recall the little drama I experienced at last year's dinner during my trip to Columbus for the annual Ohio Linuxfest. It seemed that of all the restaurants I could pick in Columbus for a post-convention meal, it would have to be the same one where an ex-girlfriend ("K") from high school had been sitting with her husband at the very table next to us. The breakup hadn't exactly been easy and while I have always felt bad about what happened, when I saw her again I didn't have the cahones to be an adult and admit who I was and that I was very sorry.

It turns out that the Internet isn't all that big of a place after all. Upon learning that I am now writing a food blog from a mutual third friend, "K" decided to search for my blog and upon finding it and with my recently added conveniently organized alphabetical list of restaurants that I've reviewed, it was only a matter of time until she understandably clicked on my review for Old Bag of Nails Pub since it was one of her favorites, too. Within a few minutes, "K" sent me a Facebook message with the title, "K read your review on Old Bag of Nails in Worthington." I know there wasn't anyone around to confirm this when I got the message, but I could feel the blood drain from my face.

While she could have worded her message in many ways, she did what I couldn't and took the high road. She was kind and gracious and through several messages back and forth, I think we both managed to finally get a sense of closure to the situation. I still can't excuse my bad behavior back in high school, but I think "K" finally understood the issues I was dealing with at the time. In fact, at her request, we have now become Facebook friends.

Tonight's dinner wasn't intentionally held at a different Columbus restaurant because I was trying to avoid "K," but simply because I wanted to cover a different restaurant this time. I knew if I had returned to Old Bag of Nails Pub, I would've ordered the fish and chips again and while I was certain they would've been delicious, that wouldn't exactly be expanding my culinary horizons for the purpose of the blog. So I picked another Columbus favorite I discovered during my days living there, Thai Orchid.

When I lived in Columbus, only one location existed for Thai Orchid at 7654 Sawmill Road, Dublin, OH 43017. While this location was still open and was indeed the one I went to tonight, they have since opened up a new location just a few miles away in Powell, Ohio. The phone number for tonight's location was 614-792-1112. Since the original location was located in a strip mall away from the main road (like so many restaurants and businesses in Columbus), there was a large parking lot with ample parking available.

Here was a shot of the storefront:

Storefront of Thai Orchid Restaurant
Since this meal would be shared with my cousin and my aunt, I waited outside in the cool air for them to pull up. To my utter surprise, an old college fraternity brother, Larry, and his wife pulled up to get take-out. Larry and I chatted for a bit and that was when I learned about the new location for the restaurant. He had said that the food suffered a bit at the original location when the new one opened, but it had now recovered. Shortly after Larry went in to get his food, my family arrived and we walked in to request a table.

After being sat, I began taking pictures of the menu (which seemed larger than I remembered it):

Thai Orchid's Menu Page 1
Thai Orchid's Menu Page 2
Thai Orchid's Menu Page 3
Thai Orchid's Menu Page 4
Thai Orchid's Menu Page 5
Thai Orchid's Menu Page 6
Thai Orchid's Menu Page 7
After chatting it over with my dinner companions, we decided to start out with a couple of appetizers. First up was the Mee Grob:

Mee Grob
Composed of crispy rice noodles that had been coated in a sweet chili sauce, they were perched atop several small cooked shrimp and lengths of scallion. I've had this dish before (most recently at Ty Fun Thai Bistro in Tremont, Ohio). Both versions were very similar, but the one at Thai Orchid definitely had more shrimp than the one at Ty Fun, which was nice because everyone got to sample both the crispy noodles and seafood.

Our second appetizer was the chicken satay:

Chicken Satay with Grilled Bread
Grilled chicken on a skewer? Check. Peanut dipping sauce and sweet and sour vegetables in sauce? Check. Griddled white bread? Wait. Huh? Thai Orchid has always offered a version of this dish that was different from everyone else. While I don't know how authentic the griddled white bread was, it's the version that I remember eating as I discovered Thai food for the first time. Honestly, whenever I have chicken satay somewhere else, I always miss the bread. This time around, the chicken satay was excellent, the chicken being perfectly seasoned and grilled and both sauces providing a contrast between the heavier peanut sauce and the lighter sweet and sour sauce.

Our appetizers out of the way, I decided to have a bowl of the Tom Yung Goong soup, Thai Orchid's version always having been arguably one of the best I had ever eaten:

Tom Yum Goong Soup
Loaded with freshly cooked shrimp, mushrooms, scallions, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes, the soup was better than average. That being said, it wasn't quite as good as my memory remembered it. While there was a definite zip from chili heat and zing from the lime juice, it just didn't grab my taste buds the way I thought it would. Don't get me wrong, I'd order this again in a heartbeat, but if this was the latest version the kitchen was preparing, then I can definitely say that I've now had better.

Deciding that a trifecta of shrimp dishes were to comprise my dinner tonight, I ordered the Gang Goong Sapparot for my entrée:

Gang Goong Sapparot
The bowl contained a tantalizing combination of shrimp, pineapple and green peppers cooked in a red curry and coconut sauce. I've never had to play the "convince my server I really want it spicy" game at Thai Orchid and by asking for it spicy, it actually came out quite spicy. I'd say "spicy" at Thai Orchid was equivalent to "Extra Thai Spicy" at other restaurants. Just something to keep in mind.

When you order your entrée, you have your choice of steamed or fried rice. Tonight I chose steamed rice:

Bowl of Steamed Rice
Once I had received both my dinner and my rice, I used the supplied third plate to scoop a little of each onto it before digging in:

My Dinner Plate at Thai Orchid
Other than the trip to the bathroom to clear my sinuses, this was a marvelous taste of Thailand. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and just slightly sweet. The acid from the pineapple balanced the sweetness from the shrimp and the coconut milk in the red curry. Finally, the spiciness of the red curry brought all of the classic Thai flavors together in my mouth: tangy, salty, hot and sweet.

Our meal finally concluded, my aunt graciously picked up the check for tonight's feast. Of course, I only discovered this after ordering some of Thai Orchid's delicious Pad Thai to go. It should be noted that all "to go" orders are discounted by 10%. Which, for my Pad Thai would only amount to a measly $1, but if your order was larger, clearly you'd save by eating the food someplace other than the restaurant.

I was pleased that my meal tonight brought back so many memories of eating here many years ago. It seemed that whether there was a dip in the quality after the opening of their second location or not, at least tonight the flavors were consistent, delicious, and worth seeking out. I highly suggest if you are in the mood for Thai food and you live in Columbus, check out Thai Orchid.

Thai Orchid on Urbanspoon


Bob Sisler said...

This is one of my favorite Thai Restaurants anywhere. The quality and flavor of their Panag and Red Curries are some of the best that I have ever had. And as mentioned, there is no problem getting them to prepare the food at a Thai 10 spice level. That said, based on what you experienced eating at the original location, I would recommend investing an extra ten minutes and driving on to their new location. I was just there about a month ago, and the food was up to the same standard that I remember from the original location.

Tino said...

@Bob Sisler: What surprised me the most about the new location is how close it is to the original one. I would've thought a better location would be a bit further away, say over by Easton or maybe southeast Columbus. That being said, I'm still going to check out the new location the next time I am in Columbus.

DianeS said...

It makes me very happy to know that you and "K" have been in touch and have closure over the past.

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