- 215 E. Walnut St., Des Moines, IA, 50309
- Overall User Rating:
- (6 ratings)
- Monday-Saturday Lunch 11a.m.-2p.m. Dinner 5a.m.-9p.m.
When Ban Thai shuttered last year, something seemed amiss in our restaurant landscape. The East Village without a Thai restaurant? It just wasn’t right. Before Ban Thai, Taste of Thailand was a 23-year mainstay on East Walnut (long before anyone even started calling the now-hip area the East Village).
Right after the New Year, Taste of Thai opened up in the former restaurants’ location, and it’s off to a great start.
Who/What? The team includes Ponexay Vilavongsa and Chad Lovan, a veteran of Taste of Thailand who later went on to work at Lemon Grass.
Ambience: It’s better than ever. Taste of Thailand was a lovable dive, and Ban Thai brought harmonious dark-wood/jade-green effects. Now, a lipstick-red and sunny-yellow color scheme blends with a decorating motif of lavishly woven Thai textiles for alluring effects. Lucky bamboo and carnations in cute little vases top the glass-over-white-linens tabletops. Yes, you can bring a date here.
Menu: Eschewing the jack-of-all-trades impulse, the menu is not bulked up with sushi or stock Chinese specialties; rather, the spotlight remains sharply focused on Lao and Thai cuisine. Find curries, classic Thai stir-fries (Thai basil, honey-cashew, pineapple-tomato), oodles of noodle dishes and a handful of salads. Lao specialties include larp (that multifaceted dice of meats, onions, sprouts, herbs and spices) and papaya salad (unripe papaya strips in a swirl of seasonings).
Food — the report: Anyone who loves Southeast Asian whole fried-catfish dishes should try the Three Flavors Fish; the fish spent the night marinating in a dry rub of salt and sugar. It was then deep fried for a crunchy-crisp exterior and served with a sauce flavored simply but sublimely with salt, sugar and tamarind for paradisiacal salty-sweet-sour effects, then finished with touches of cilantro and fried red onions.
The Pad Thai was as crazy-good in that nutty-sweet-sour (again with the tamarind) way. For contrast, I suggest ordering it alongside something spicy, such as the Curry Squash, with diced sweet winter squash, crisp broccoli, green beans, carrots and Thai basil in a heady and opulent coconut-milk-laced red curry sauce.
The only dish that didn’t give us a lift was the fried egg salad; though the menu specified a deep-fried egg, what came to the table looked more like scrambled. Cool Basil is still the best spot for this unique way with eggs.
Bottom Line: Here’s hoping Taste of Thai’s tenure here will be long and robust.