When my friends came to town — yes, I have them; don’t act so shocked — they had a few places they wanted to stop. La Baguette for brunch. The Wedge for dinner. And lunch, they insisted, must be at … Pei Wei.
Listen, if you’re in the mood for a dan dan noodle bowl, I’m not going to cry foul. But it’s inexplicable when you consider that good, authentic Thai food is available pretty much everywhere in Oklahoma City.
One of the oldest names in OKC’s Thai food community is Sala Thai. And although the business has changed hands over the years, it’s still making great food.
I went with a large-ish group of people, not because I like the company, but because I needed a table large enough to accommodate everything I ordered. And while it may have looked fine to the other diners, our waitress knew and (rightfully) judged me.
But, hey, am I supposed to actually choose just one entrée? That’s unheard of … in my Overeaters Anonymous meetings.
Let’s start with my favorite dish: ginger Thai-style chicken ($8.70). Ask for it hot. If it’s not hot enough, ask for it to be hotter. Then soak in the sweet, slightly sour burn of delight. While the big pieces of chicken are great, I mostly was taken by the abundance of sweet, crunchy onions.
If you get a to-go box with leftovers — and I’m not saying this happened to me at 3:45 p.m. or anything — don’t expect them to make it all the way home. Like a lot of spicy dishes, the flavors pleasantly intensify over time.
For those who like fish, there are a few excellent options. For those who don’t like fish: Grow up and eat some fish. It’s good for you.
My favorites are spicy trout ($8.70) with bamboo shoots in red curry, which soaks into the rice and delivers a big punch of flavor, and the similar, but crispier, chile fish ($11.70). Chile fish forgoes the curry sauce for pure, unadulterated awesome heat. Lots of sweet, hot chiles on top of thin, fried rainbow trout. I’m about 95 percent sure this is what John Mellencamp sang about in “Hurts So Good.”
For those who like pho — which should be all of you — there’s a Thai cousin you ought to try: Boat noodles ($8.70). Combining tender cuts of beef with rice noodles and bean sprouts, it’s a cinnamon-packed soup that is at once familiar and very different.
And one simply cannot talk about a Thai restaurant without mentioning pad thai. One has enjoyed this dish many times at Sala Thai. One doesn’t feel that it stands out from the pack as a particularly different pad thai, but one isn’t particularly looking for a dish to be strange, so long as it’s good. That one is me.
Look, Sala Thai has been around for a while for a reason. There are dishes I like more (chile fish, for instance), but I haven’t had anything there I wouldn’t gladly eat again, so long as you’re paying. Are you paying? Don’t leave me hanging here.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.