Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
Winning big can be hungry, thirsty work. We scoured Oklahoma’s casinos for your best bets on sustenance whether you are on a winning streak, holding, folding, walking away, running, or just down to your last five bucks.
Tana Thai Bistro
10700 N. May
What Works: lovely atmosphere, small and focused menu
What Needs Work: Spice levels seemed to vary dish to dish.
Tips: Take a group, order a bunch, try some of everything.
Thai food scares me a bit.
See, I have a fair idea what a cheeseburger is supposed to taste like, even though there are endless variations. And I’ve had enough spaghetti in my time to identify the good from the bad.
I have eaten and enjoyed some Thai food, but I’m nowhere near an expert, which makes reviewing a place like Tana Thai difficult. I cannot tell you if some of the dishes I had there were “the way they ought to be” — only if they tasted good in my face.
Luckily for my face, and maybe even for your faces, I was pretty happy with my Tana Thai experience.
Located in a strip mall, Tana Thai is not a big restaurant. It is a quiet place. Clean, but not fancy. I would feel comfortable taking a date there, were I the kind of person who dated other persons.
The menu is small, but I have found that to be a good sign. It means the chefs aren’t trying to be a pan-Asian emporium but instead are focusing on doing one cuisine and doing it well.
Take, for instance, the yellow curry with shrimp ($9.95), which was a mild and flavorful mix of carrots, onions and potatoes with big, whole shrimp. Although I asked for a “2” (it seems to run a heat scale of 1 to 3), it didn’t have much zip. It was, however, a rich and filling meal.
Better was the pad thai with chicken ($7.95), which is Thai starter food in the way that a California roll seems to be the thing you give sushi novices to lure them into the dangerous, shadowy world of raw fish. But I don’t care at all.
Pad thai is delicious, and Tana Thai makes a great one. A little spicy (leave it in the fridge for a day, however, and it gets feisty) and a little sweet with nice big pieces of seared chicken over perfect little sticky noodles.
I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the tom kha soup with chicken ($5.95), which suffered from a few issues. One was that the chicken pieces were a bit too large, which is awkward with soup. Am I supposed to put my knife in there? If I bite through a piece and it drops, it’ll splash soup back on me.
Also, the broth had a bit of a funk to it.
And this is where unfamiliarity may be plaguing me. Is tom kha supposed to be a little funky? I’m not sure. I had some and it was OK, but there were better dishes to eat.
the Thai basil stir fried ($8.95), which definitely didn’t skimp on
basil. The onions and bell pepper were crunchy, the green beans had a
snap but were done right and the mushrooms and chili sauce provided a
little heat but left the bulk of the flavor to the basil.
This, of course, was chosen by my wife, which makes me wonder if she’s just better at choosing food (likely) or if I have a bad case of grass-is-greener syndrome (also possible). Regardless, it was good.
The spring rolls ($3.95 for five) were fine, if a bit bland, and the chicken satés ($4.95 for five) was flavorful if you’re looking for more appetizer options.
There’s more menu to explore, so I’ll definitely be going back soon. So what if I don’t know everything there is to know about Thai food? If you trust the restaurant — and I do trust
Tana Thai — then you can roll the dice and come up with a new favorite dish pretty easily.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.