Friday, August 15, 2014

Tom Yum Thai: They're Sexy and They Know It...

The Urbanspoon app is a cruel driving force.

I've been trying to limit my lunch outings to the Cary area, if only because it's close to home. Moreover, I've discovered that I've occasionally had to shake the app more than once (any by "more than once," I mean five, six, or seven times) to find a place that I've not already seen, or a bakery or other dessert place that's not really lunch fare. However, after a several spins, I pulled Tom Yum Thai.

I'd been familiar with them for a while now. Last year, a group of us were looking for a place for Sunday lunch and went there...only to find that they're closed for lunch on Sundays. So I was looking for an excuse to get out there again. The fact that the rooster statues are an Ingress portal was sheer coincidence. ;)

Admittedly, I wasn't really up to a dine-in experience, so I ordered takeaway. There were a few dining tables outside the restaurant, and the inside was darkly lit--relying mostly on outside light from the windows--but tastefully decorated. Unlike other Asian eateries that feel the need to pour as much gold, jade, red plastic Buddhas, and other cliches into the decor, Tom Yum turns the volume down (it's there, but not garish) on the cliche and plays up the style and elegance. Hardwood flooring, dark woods, white table linens, and white flower pots with warm-colored arrangements give the dining room a sharp, sophisticated appearance--and they know it. "The place to see and be seen!" boasts their website. Tom Yum's speed was exceptional. It took eleven minutes from the time I stepped out of my car until I was stepping back in to it with food in hand.

The lunch menu was a bit confusing. The menu on their website said that lunch specials came with soup and a spring roll. When I got there, the spring roll had been covered up with tape. When I ordered, the waiter said that the lunch special came not with soup, but a spring roll. Looking at the menu, I was looking forward to the Tom Yum soup, but it could wait until another time. Sure...I can be flexible.

The fresh spring rolls had a nice taste to them. The cilantro, sprouts, and sausage in particular played into the plum sauce. However, the fact that the rolls were sliced made eating them difficult and frustrating. I don't think I had a single one that didn't either break apart in my chopsticks or leave half of their contents in the tub of sauce. They just didn't warrant the $6 for the appetizer.

Now...Tom Yum's got a little bit of swagger to them. I like swagger. Not only do they bill themselves as they place to see and be seen, but their spices run medium, hot, and "Thai" hot...because regular hot just isn't hot enough. I decided to try the Pad Thai, if only because it’s a common dish that I can use as a baseline—the way I use General Tso’s Chicken as a baseline dish when I check out a new Chinese takeaway place. Having seen from other reviews that the chef is liberal with her spicing, I played it safe and went for the medium option, and I was glad I did. For $8, the portion was decent and the heat was present during and after a bite—but it wasn’t overpowering, nor did it have me scrambling for water after each bite. The noodles weren’t overdone and mushy, and the chicken tasted like white meat cuts. The spring roll was standard. Not bad, but not special, really.  Soup would have been better, I suspect.

Admittedly, based on lunch reactions, Tom Yum was decent for the entrĂ©e. The appetizer and side item left a lot to be desired, but I didn’t go there for appetizers and sides. Also, given that they seem to play a bit more upscale in terms of atmosphere and decor, I suspect I’ll stop by to dine in for dinner some night. Still, for a fast lunch order of Pad Thai, Tom Yum Thai hit the mark.

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