Friday, December 31, 2010

Rak Thai Bistro, 5260 Northland Dr NE - 12/22/10

You’d be hard-pressed to stop here based on the exterior alone. The restaurant is located in a non-descript strip mall on Northland Drive at Plainfield. But upon entering, you will be greeted by a contemporary and minimalist interior with lime green walls, and light wood floors, tables and chairs. The room is long and narrow with nine tables for two crammed together along one wall, and four tables for four located on the opposite wall. This wall also holds two large screen TVs. Nothing else is hung on any of the walls. There’s a private dining area for a large group on your right.

There was one hostess/waitress/busgirl working and she seated us quickly along the table-for-two wall. Shortly thereafter, she seated a couple on our left and on our right. (Open tables were available elsewhere so this crowding was unnecessary.) The menu is refreshingly small and not over-whelming as in most Thai restaurants. It’s a two-page laminated sheet.

We began with two appetizers, five Firecrackers and five Crab Cheese. Firecrackers were new to the menu and not described. Our server told us the dish was a chili and shrimp wrapped in a wonton and deep fried. We heard the word “chili” but did not fully appreciate the implication. We each took a full bite and were brought to tears. After the first two, we pulled the chili out and enjoyed the chili flavor on the shrimp. The crab cheese was good but slightly over fried. Before these dishes arrived we were served tasty Lemon Grass soup.
Our server neglected to come back to take our main dish orders but we eventually flagged her down. Before those dishes arrived, we were served lettuce salads with a sweet, fish oil type of dressing; we were not big fans.  

Under Fusion Specials, Bangkok Bulgogi was a new item on the menu and consisted of sliced beef, onions, ginger, and garlic-sesame-soy sauce. The meat could have been a little more tender but the dish was otherwise quite good. The sauce was excellent.
Tangy Thai Cashew was listed under the Wok-Flame Tossed category, and besides cashews, the dish contained onions, bell peppers, bamboo strips, straw mushrooms and a tangy-soy sauce. Our choice of protein, from chicken, sliced beef, roast pork, tofu, veggies (protein?) or shrimp, was chicken. Everything was nicely balanced and flavors combined beautifully.
Dishes are well presented. Silverware, and lime green plastic chopsticks that match the walls, are provided with a cloth napkin. Spice levels are 1 to 5, and since it was our first time there, our server suggested Level 2. We went with 3 and were happy we did; it could have even been a little hotter so if you like the slight lip-burning hot, go with 4.

The menu promises a more detailed menu on the website but it’s exactly the same, and only one page of it displays. Two of the five categories on the website do not yet link to anything. One oddity on the menu was the inclusion of a cheezy noodle dish on the menu. Perhaps that’s part of the “fusion.” And to be fair, crab cheese or crab rangoon is now found on every chinese and thai menu; it’s well accepted and not questioned.

One server could not handle the entire room and we ended up clearing off each of our old dishes ourselves (by that time our neighbors were all gone since we had a major delay in getting our main order placed). The tables are very small and can’t hold more than one course at a time. Our server was busy yet very polite. We chatted with her a bit when she brought us our check, and she mentioned that the restaurant had been slow lately so the owners scheduled only one employee today; she didn’t mind because all the tips were hers but service suffered.

The restaurant is definitely worth a visit. The atmosphere is contemporary and sleek but it is not a place for private or quiet conversations. Take-out is an appealing option. They do not serve alcohol but the owners are attempting to obtain a liquor license.
Rak Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon

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