Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tuesday, 4/6/10 - Tong's Thai

Date: 4/6/10
Restaurant: Tong's Thai
Location: 1146 Austin Highway
Executive Chef: Nong Charassri Saeng-On

I don't know anybody who has tried Thai food and doesn't like it. Everyone I know falls into one of two categories: "Thai food? Ugh, weird, dunwanna" or "Thai? ZOMG let's get some right now!" Tavis and I have been to five different Thai restaurants in San Antonio so we definitely fall into the latter category. Tong's was highly and vocally recommended by friends and online sources for both their quality of food and their funky, friendly atmosphere, as well as their variety of bubble teas (varitea?). So off we went!

It's just marginally confusing getting here; we expected it to be way longer and way more convoluted. It was actually less of a hassle than driving downtown. Parking's a bit scarce though. Tuesday was a good day to go, we had the place largely to ourselves and about 4 other couples and small groups.

If in some wacky bizarro world my mom were Thai, I imagine her restaurant would look much like this.

A shot of the interior, and let me tell ya, these fish could've starred in their very own Thai soap opera. One of the far-too-many-staffed-for-the-night waiters gleefully let us in on the drama. The restaurant recently purchased a new puffer fish. Average cost of fish in the tank: $80. Cost of new puffer fish: about $400. Naturally all the other fish were snarky, and when fish get snarky, they chew on you. Poor new upper class puffer was hiding in a corner with his fins in his...ears...going "lalala you can't see me!" for most of our meal.

I kid you not. This was high entertainment to everyone working last night.

Back to the food! Or drinks, rather.

I've never tried bubble tea before, but considering how much I loved the squishy pulpy fruit juices in South Korea, I expected bubble tea to be like reuniting with an old friend. I asked the waiter's recommendation and ended up with something called the American Dream, made with peach, watermelon and strawberries. Much like sucking down big fat purple jujubes with your smoothie. Tasty and interesting, but hardly something I'd crave.

Tavis got nostalgic as he does when we're in any Asian restaurant and ordered Asahi, the beer we drank most often in Japan. It was enjoyable but he said it really didn't go with his meal at all. They had a decent wine list and I hear they have a few varieties of sake (variesake? No, that just doesn't work at all), which we'll probably go for next time.

Boy was it tough making decisions on the food. Great menu. They have Thai and Chinese options, as well as a sushi bar with plenty of rolls and sashimi. The fish looked quite fresh and delicious; however, I'd eaten sushi recently enough to pass this time.

Around this time I went to the restroom to wash up before our food arrived. It's always a pleasant surprise when a restaurant's aesthetic appeal extends to their restroom. I share this moment with you. Please enjoy.

And when I got back, our appetizers had arrived! O happy day.

My beautiful most favorite soup, tom kha kai. I adore this soup, which is made with coconut milk, khaffir lime and lemongrass and filled with all sorts of goodies. Tavis had never tried it before, and I'm always somewhat anxious with him and soup-- he's more particular than I am. He takes a bite. His face lights up. "It's like chowder!" And then he proceeds to snatch up all the chicken and straw mushrooms with his chopsticks and gobble them down.

(Side note on the chicken, because while I would happily be a fish breathing in a sea of this broth all my life, the chicken within the soup was the most incredibly juicy, tender, pampered chicken we've ever had.)

(Sorry for the hyperbole. Tom kha kai brings that out in me.)

(Oh who am I kidding? I'm hyperbolic. And I'm also done with parentheses for now.)

Tavis's appetizer, some very flavorful spring rolls. Filled with pork, mushrooms, carrots, glass noodles and lots of win. I don't think I've ever had better.

My entree, panang. It tastes much better than it probably looks; the only shortcoming to Thai food is that it doesn't photograph all that well. This was a bit hot for Tavis but I greatly enjoyed its sweet, spicy richness, especially the beef. The jasmine rice is wonderful with it and there's plenty.

Our usual Thai staple, pad wun sen, which is glass noodles, sauteed veggies, and more of that ridiculously tender chicken. Once again, the best we'd ever had, and like I said this is our fallback meal.

Returnability: Heck yeah! The food was amazing, the service was friendly and prompt (and probably would've been even if they hadn't had twice the number of waiters as well as the live action Discovery Channel entertainment), and while this is certainly more of a drive than our usual Thai place around the corner, it was well worth it. If you haven't yet taken the step to join our category of adventurous consumers, I highly recommend you give it a Thai.

Okay, I couldn't stop that one.


Brian Moon said...

This review made me both hungry and laugh out loud. Two thumbs up, way up.

Megan and Tavis said...

Brian - thanks! Glad my dorkiness keeps you grinning. It's really too bad you have no good excuse to come south for the summer, huh? Oh the eats we could eat.

Allison said...

I absolutely LOVE Thai. I could eat it every day. However, my girlfriend can't stand it. I've made her try it three times--with a simple but perfect peanut sauce as a last resort. No dice. It's the strangest thing in the world to me. She's a foodie, too.

Rosie Posie said...

I can't believe we hadn't taken you there before... we like to go there before or after a trip to one of the museums in the area.

Sorry the bubble tea didn't wow you, I love those things! BTW- the 'bubbles' are giant tapioca balls.

Megan and Tavis said...

Allison - weeeeeird. I wonder what it is that turns her off to the flavors (or textures? Or colors?). There's such variety. Human tastes are so interesting.

Rosie - well, we know better now! And yeah, I knew it was tapioca, although when I went in I was thinking small tapiocas like in my beloved puddin. Not these huge purple monstrosities. :D