Monday, May 2, 2011

Thai in the 'Burbs, II

Thai Lao Orchid
18410 Highway 281 North, Suite 115
    (in the Legacy shopping center at the northeast corner of 281 and 1604)

It's not so very long ago that only sophisticated world travellers knew there was such a thing as Thai food. I've been around some in my time, and am at least sophisticated enough to know when to extend my pinkie finger, and when not to (even if I don't quite know why), and I had never given it a moment's thought until I stumbled upon a Thai buffet in a now-defunct restaurant off San Pedro, oh, maybe 20 years ago. (My, how time flies.) In the intervening years, though I have not been to Thailand, I've had enough Thai food to form opinions about it, and to compare the quality of one house's to another's.

What was, not so long ago, exotic and rare, is becoming commonplace, a phenomenon first observed (in my lifetime; dare I date myself so much?) with pizza and Chinese food back in the 1960s. The difference is that, in the case of Thai food, the move is not so much a down-market move as an upscale-downmarket move. Thai Lao Orchid is an example, though only one of many here in town. My favourite food-finding website, Urbanspoon, lists 61. That may not be precisely accurate, but it'll be close.

Take a rental space in a just-built pretentious suburban shopping center; deck it out in murals and décor that could be Mexican, or Italian, or South Asian. Add a few odds and ends of indisputably Asian influence: the copper fish on the wall, the Chinese curtain. As the owners of this place clearly recognize, it doesn't really matter, so long as it's attractive (it is) and bright (it is) and neutral in a religious, political, and social sense (it is). This will encourage good feeling among customers while not distracting them from what should be their focus: the food.

Last city inspection: July 2009
9 demerits
Thai Lao Orchid gets it right. The good variety of appetizers may be a little pricey, but the lunch specials ($8.95, including soup, rice where appropriate, and a choice of beef, chicken, pork or tofu) are just about right.

The soup of the day was chicken and rice. Not the kind of salty guck you have in that aging can in your pantry, but a delicate, almost clear lightly-seasoned broth with slightly-mushy rice and finely sliced scallions. It's a small serving, which is to say it is just enough to whet the appetite, and it accomplishes that task admirably.

My choice for lunch was the Number 7. (I'm sorry, I don't remember what it was called.) Wide noodles served with stir-fried vegetables in a rich but not thick sauce, with thin slices of beef. I thought the carrots should either have been sliced thinner or cooked longer, but the texture didn't detract from the overall experience of the meal. There was plenty of ginger and spice (I ordered it medium-spicy, out of an abundance of caution), and the presentation was excellent.

My friend's order was spicy stir-fried vegetables, Number 4. He got it with chicken and asked that cashews be added as well, and he asked for it fairly spicy, 7 out of 10. (I always find these demarcations of seasoning a little too precise to be real, sort of like TSA's regulations for liquids in carry-on luggage.) His dish was served with white rice. He thought it was very well done, he said, and I can take him at his word, as his dish would not have required washing, were it not for other, less silly government regulations.

The service, as is often true at Asian restaurants, was very good. I know it's not fashionable these days to ascribe cultural reasons to such things, but there must be some cultural reason why Asians seem to always excel at whatever they attempt, be it waiting tables or making electronic devices. Or graduating from college. Maybe it has to do with all that "Tiger Mom" stuff.
Thai Lao Orchid on Urbanspoon


  1. how the fuck is a shopping center "pretentious" ?!

    you are way too sensitive and have some work to do.

  2. While there is always the remote possibility that you are correct, your vulgar language and demonstrated tendency to jump to conclusions leads me to discount your very cogent argument.

    On the odd chance that your question is genuine, rather than rhetorical, this link should provide some guidance. I refer you to definition number two.


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