Balancing act

Thai Kitchen has too much sweet, not enough heat

By Paula Johnson

Photo: Thai Kitchen’s Tom Yum soup

A trip to Thai Kitchen in Miamisburg made me think about an early ’80s cult film called “Koyaanisqatsi.” In the Hopi language, the word koyaanisqatsi means “unbalanced life.” Of central importance in Thai cuisine is the concept of balance. Specifically, the balance between the flavor components sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and salty. The best Thai food highlights these flavors in a complex and harmonious way and creates a taste experience with depth and subtlety. Unfortunately, what we experienced at Thai Kitchen was a meal out of balance.

Tom yuck

Tom Yum soup is a favorite of mine, and we ordered a large tureen ($11) for the whole table to try. With me on this venture was PIP (Palate In Progress), and great friends Mike and the always effervescent Debbie. Mike and Debbie hadn’t tried Tom Yum before, or indeed much Thai food at all. I had really built this soup up, talking about its powerfully spicy broth. My friends were anticipating a soup with a punch. Instead, anemic, rather than aromatic, this soup was overly sweet and lacking any hint of zest. There was no pungent, slightly sour and peppery kick, no tang of lemongrass, just a few forlorn flecks of cilantro floating atop the thin broth.

The appetizers we ordered were fair. Everyone agreed the Spring Rolls ($1.75 each) were fine, but the Cheese Rangoon ($4.50) was a little mushy instead of flakey crispy. I tried the Grilled Shrimp and Scallop appetizer ($9.95) and found that the shrimp and scallops, while not overdone, had a slightly over grilled taste, with not much of the garlic and black pepper described. Just not that exciting. Additionally, they were served on a bed of imitation crab, not mentioned in the menu description, and something that I find really unpleasant. Debbie had requested a recommendation for a roll that had some crunch on the outside. Our friendly server recommended the Samurai Roll ($7.95). However, it arrived with only a meager tempura coating, and was more chewy than crunchy.

Interesting name, uninteresting dish

For entrees, Debbie choose Drunken Noodles (Phad Khee Mao). Described as wide rice noodles stir-fried with basil, mushrooms, onions, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, mixed seafood and Thai chili paste ($14.95) the origin of the dish’s name is intriguing with several theories existing. One claims the name comes from the use of rice wine in preparing this dish, but no alcohol is added in any of the original Thai recipes. Some suggest the name came from being prepared by a drunkard. Finally, another theory states that the noodles have a sloppy, drunken look to them. There seems to be no definitive consensus on how the dish was named. Interesting story, uninteresting execution in this case.

My noodle dish, TK Noodles ($14.95), featured the classic Thai cellophane, or glass noodle, noted for being clear when cooked. These noodles, made from bean starch, yam, potato starch, cassava or canna starch, have a slippery mouthfeel and look a lot like vermicelli. While not spicy enough (I ordered an eight on the 1-10 scale), it was the best dish on the table by far. PIP’s Shrimp with 3 Flavor Sauce ($12.95) was deep shrimp fried with sweet, spicy, sour sauce ladled over top. It was heavy with breading and the sauce unfortunately was mostly sweet.

Mike’s Thai Pepper Steak ($11.95) was unimpressive as well, with the steak’s appearance flabby and gray. He pronounced it tough, and the light brown sauce to be, “OK I guess.” We all agreed the meal was mediocre, the dishes never quite finding that sweet spot. Or in this case the sour, salty, spicy and bitter spot as well. I’ve promised Mike and Debbie some Tom Yum soup, and I plan to deliver. It just won’t be from Thai Kitchen.

Thai Kitchen is located at 8971 Kingsridge Dr. in Miamisburg. For more information, please call 937.436.5079 or visit tkthaikitchen.com.

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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