Thursday, February 19, 2009

Andaman Thai Cuisine in Lincoln City, OR

I cried, literally, when Red Thai Room in Silverton, OR closed. Some time later, I've found something which soothes my pain just a wee bit.

We'd taken off early for the day with friends and headed to the coast in search of sheets at Wamsutta, which we learned is no longer part of the outlet mall in Lincoln City. Bummer. We didn't let that stop us from stimulating the economy a little bit through the purchase of kitchen gadgets and shoes.

Hungry from our endeavor, we visited Andaman Thai Cuisine.

Aron and Val had dined there before, and had good things to say. (The reviews found online at Tripadvisor were all over the place, though.) The location is a bit lackluster; it's in a little strip mall like building right next to a do-it-yourself car wash and a Burger King. The inside is welcoming and bright, however. There are a few unique details, but there's a few things that are really dissonant, too, such as an empty dessert case that looks right out of Denny's, and the ajoining space, which used to be Tigerlily Tea and Dessert Bar, is being reworked in concept. But... it is the off season still. The seating was comfortable.

We were seated by a tall older gentleman who appeared to be the co-owner and husband of the chef. We were poured water with a slight lime infusion; just one small detail that suggested more was to come.

I'll be blunt: service was slow. We were one of only three tables in the place at dinner hour mid-week, our four top sharing the space with a couple and a single. We waited just a bit too long at each interval, went without water for some time, etc.

For appetizers, we ordered the Appetizer Sampler (fried tofu, salad rolls, stuffed wontons and spring rolls served with peanut sauce and plum sauce) and all pieces were beautiful and tasty. We also had to try Oh My God (yes, the dish was called "Oh My God") and boy, am I glad we did. It's a luscious crispy roll of crab, cream cheese and other tidbits that is served atop a spicy chili based sauce, served flambe. Beautiful presentation, and scrumptious flavors.

Entrees are generous portions for one (not the large 2-3 serving family style plates you get at some Thai places) and range from $11-$23. We ordered Sweet and Spicy Basil Fried Rice, Grilled Prawns, Crispy Pad Thai, and Thai Grilled Seafood Curry.

All dishes were served fresh and hot, spiced appropriately as we had ordered. Presentation was fantastic, with different colored/shaped plates for each dish. The rice for dishes that included it came as a mix of brown and white rices, layered on top of one another and moulded into the shape of a heart.

The elements of each dish were fresh and quality. Tastes and textures were well balanced. The big hits were the Crispy Pad Thai and the Thai Grilled Seafood Curry. The former comes out as a big billowing nest of crispy noodles. It appears difficult to approach at first, but you just start to crunch the noddles and mix it up; you'll find the red curry and goodies at the center, plentiful enough to coat all the noodles generously. The flavors are excellent, accented by small slivers of onion tops and sweet red pepper. Yum yum yum.

Thai Grilled Seafood Curry is a real show stopper: a lovely green curry with a mix of seafood surrounds a fresh coconut filled crab legs and mussels, full of soft, sweet coconut meat to scoop out and eat.

Our server was pleasant and helpful, but slow and disorganized; he strikes me as a stand in, not a professional server. Again, it's the off season; probably trying to get through the lean time by doing it all themselves.

They usually have a selection of excellent desserts from Papa Hayden's, but the dessert case was empty. Something about being sold out over Valentine's Weekend, and the son's planned trip back from Portland with the goods not happening. Too bad!

The chef came out and talked to us once as we were eating, and again after we were finished. She's positively delightful, sharing with us ideas for new things, telling us amusing stories about restaurant ownership, etc.

So on the one hand, it wasn't a perfect experience. But... I'm used to the reality of the off season in a strongly seasonal area. The rough edges were well worth the fantastic food, the relaxing evening, and the enjoyment of talking with the owners.

We will return, without a doubt. I'll be looking for the polish on those rough edges, however.

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