Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thai Kitchen

2031 Dorsett Village
Maryland HeightsMO

Another workday lunch adventure.

The crew: Myself, Doug, Lilian and Keith.
Lilian put this trip together, adamantly suggesting the destination. We’d all been there a time or two before. I was less than ecstatic, but I need to spread my social wings once in awhile. Not that I don’t like the Thai Kitchen it’s just that. . . Well, I’ll explain later.

The Place:
Next to, and sharing the same building with, Maryland Yards. It’s not obvious driving by, it does not face the road. But like I’d said, we’ve all been there before and didn’t have any problems finding it. Parking was trickier. Between Maryland Yards and the Thai Kitchen, the lot was nearly full. Maryland Yards is a rightfully popular sports bar/grill which I will certainly be reviewing in the future.
What we were not expecting was the popularity of the TK. There was a five or six person line at the door.  We stepped up to it, stopped and immediately Doug, Keith and I started discussing the notion that Maryland Yards was bigger and perhaps not as crowded. Lilian though was undeterred. Something you need to know about Lilian, she is tenacious. Everyone that has worked with her will tell you this. Once her mind is pointed at something, she will dog it till it yields, or it runs away. It makes her very effective at work when there’s an issue that needs to be resolved, or a project that’s mired down. This was no different, she pushed her small but determined frame into the restaurant ahead of us. We stayed outside. In a few minutes, while we were still indecisively contemplating or options, she squeezed back out and told us to follow her, she’d secured us a table. Like I said, she’s tenacious.
We shoved everyone aside and sure enough were led to a table in the back, one that was just then being bussed.
“They very, very busy, not enough staff” She told us, pointing to the gentleman and lady clearing the table. “They are brother and sister, from Shanghai.”
I immediately recognized the significance of this, Lilian is also from Shanghai, She’s only been in the U.S. for about nine years, Lilian is her American name for herself. If you go to the restaurant’s web site you’ll see a picture of the proprietors, ‘Angie’  and her brother. I’m betting Angie wasn’t her given name either.
The place was indeed packed, with people like us, by that I mean cubicle workers. Maryland Heights is very business-y, lots of office buildings, and thus lots of people like us looking for a decent, reasonably priced lunch. There’s a good picture of the inside of the place on their web site as well. Dark yellow walls, wood wainscoting, with a score or so framed, black and white photos of people and places in Thailand. On the prominent counter were tall stacks of Styrofoam take out boxes.
The tables were small, which made them modular, different sized parties would get an appropriate number of tables pushed together, we required two.
Above us on the back wall was a large flat screen TV showing the Headline News Channel. There was no sound, close-captioning was turned on. Something radioactive in Russia, another riot in Palestine.
The Food:
  The menu (available online as well.) Was broken down into groups,soups, salads, curry, rice and noodles, and house specials. I had a pretty good idea of what I would get going in, the choice being based on the spiciness, or in my case, the lack of spiciness. I knew of two possibilities, the fried rice (pick your meat) and the slightly more adventurous Pad Thai.(noodles)
Doug would go spicier, he always does, it’s quite fun to watch. They arrived to take our orders, Lilian and the waiter started yammering away in a high speed conversation in their complex but almost musical native tongue, the rest of us just stared at each other. We finally ordered, Keith copied my rice order, He’s a native Jefferson Countian which may explain our simpler, milder tastes.  Lilian went for the spicy seafood rice, Doug opted for the spicy basil chicken and asked for the spice tray as well. The spice tray is a condiment tray with several vials of pepper-laden liquids and powders, all the way from ‘too hot to eat’ to ‘caustic weapon of torture.’  I won’t touch the vicious stuff. We all chose water, it’s a working lunch thing, common among the thrifty cubicle dwellers. Lilian asked for a lemon for hers, naturally they brought her two. Her new friends took pretty good care of us.
Keith got Lilian’s attention at one point and asked what they were talking about. She answered back several details which impressed Keith. I explained to him that Lilian and the manager were from the same village. This made Lilian laugh, she knew I was making a joke since Shanghai is not a ‘village’ in any language, it’s a sprawling mega-city of around fifteen million people. Lilian and I have had several conversations about her hometown and country. I’ve only been as far as Japan and Korea myself, but I’ve read extensively about China.
The food arrived rather quickly, single plates with a big pile of rice. Doug’s rice was plain, the chicken and spicy bits in a separate pile to be blended together as seen fit by the consumer. He ladled on some of the reddish, oily spices from the spice tray, just a little though, it doesn’t take a lot of that stuff to set off fire alarms or induce a coma.
My rice was savory and well blended with the un-breaded chicken chunks, onions and egg bits, and tomatoes. Yeah tomatoes, in fried rice.
Within a few bites Doug was sweating, but not slowing down. Had he not been eating spicy food one would think he was getting ready to stroke out. His face was red, his eyes fully dilated, and he was breathing heavy. This didn’t interfere with his enjoyment though, Doug likes to eat and has a healthy metabolism.
Lilian insisted that I try her spicy seafood rice, she said it didn’t seem very spicy at all. I took some, choked, spat and called her a liar. It wasn’t the spiciest thing I’d ever had, but it still invoked searing and gagging. I really, really can’t handle spicy foods. Lilian shook her head and laughed a little. She’s got a great, if not sometimes cruel, sense of humor.
Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals, Keith was bothered by me stopping occasionally to write something down. Doug knew what I was doing, but I kept Keith and Lilian in the dark about the review I was taking notes for. Keith was starting to get self conscious since I would often jot something down right after he’d said something.
“You’re not writing that down are you?” He asked for the fifth time.
“Yeah, yeah I am.”
You’re writing that down as well aren’t you” Doug asked
Late into the meal Keith pointed toward the distant-most table and said “Hey isn’t that Swami?”
We all looked, but it was hard to tell in the busy, always-in-motion room.
“I’ll find out.” Doug said, pulling out his phone.
Swami works with us, but wasn’t available to go out with us since he was having lunch with his wife. This was exciting. Swami spent the entire month of November back in his native India getting married. One of those big, blow-out, thousands of guests and dozens of parties and rituals affairs, not unlike those that are usually an integral part of Bollywood movies. 
None of us had met his wife before, we’d only seen pictures. She arrived in the states for the first time around the first of December, just a couple of weeks back. A real life changer, getting married moving abroad, we all felt sympathetic.
Sure enough, the view cleared just as Swami answered his phone. Doug insisted that he bring his wife over to meet us.
He did. She was a small, absolutely gorgeous young woman, already Americanized in her clothing, stylish jeans, blouse and boots, a drop-dead knockout. Swami’s a very handsome specimen himself, I’ve always said so. Together they were about the cutest young couple imaginable. Introductions were made, chit-chat followed, we found out that her biggest adjustment so far had been the weather. It’s been a bit chilly in St. Louis the past few weeks, colder than the ‘village’ in India she came from ever got.
We finished up, I was the only one that didn’t clear the plate. I was full.
The food is good, maybe even great. My only problem was cultural/style/preference rather than gastronomic. Restaurants like this serve single-note meals. American ‘Chinese’ places either are buffets or multi-food plates. Wontons, rangoons, egg rolls, chicken chunks, several things on a plate. Here, and in other places, you order rice, you get rice.  Personally I prefer the variety. But my rice itself was very, very good. Okay I don’t care for tomatoes in my rice, but they were sparse and pretty easy to just push aside. I poled the others, aside form Lilian’s not being spicy enough for her tastes, everyone had nothing but good things to say. Even the red-faced, sweaty and pinched-voice Doug was quite pleased.
The price was work-lunch friendly, less than ten bucks per meal. A drink other than water would have tipped it over that watermark, part of the reason water is prevalent at lunch amongst us cubicle rats.
I highly recommend the Thai Kitchen, especially if you like Thai food. I admit to being a bit wimp-ish about the spicier stuff, but that’s just me.

Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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