On a new mission…

…to find the perfect Pad Thai.  How did this objective come about?  Well, . . .

Last night, Nicole and I, along with special guest Jessica, traveled to Lancaster Avenue in search of the perfect Pad Thai.  Of course, we were going to Lemon Grass Thai, one of the highest rated Thai restaurants in University City.  However, we seemed to be on a bad luck streak, as Lemon Grass Thai was a major disappointment, similar to our restaurant experiences last week.   I usually order Thai food from Pattaya since it is closer to where I live (and it is also highly-rated!), so my review is a comparison of the two restaurants.

At Pattaya, I usually order the delicious Pad Thai entree and sometimes the Fried Calamari appetizer.  When I went to Lemon Grass Thai, I chose the Shrimp in a Blanket appetizer, House Salad with Peanut Sauce, and Pad Thai entree, which Nicole shared with me.  My friend Jessica ordered the Chu Chee Duck.

Though the menu prices for both restaurants are similar, the actual food amounts are different.  Though I did not order calamari from Lemon Grass, the Shrimp in a Blanket appetizer was about the same price, and there was clearly less food.  At Pattaya I received a sizable basket of freshly fried calamari with a spicy, sweet, and sour sauce.  However, at Lemon Grass, the dish only consisted of five scrawny pieces of shrimp wrapped in egg-roll-esque shells.  The menu advertised that these wrappers would include pieces of ground shrimp and crab meat, but the grindings must have been TINY because I did not taste any.  It also came with a “sweet and tangy” sauce, which was okay in terms of flavor.  The rolls were also freshly fried, so that aspect was nice.  Overall, this appetizer was pretty good, but it was not unique.

Next came my salad, which is where everything started going downhill.  Even though I have never ordered a salad from Pattaya, I have had some pretty good salads in my experiences, and this time was clearly not one of them.  The first thing I noticed was how many lettuce stalks were present.  I felt that some of them were purposely included, as they seemed to be cut into specific shapes (or maybe that was just my vivid imagination).  There were also many ribs left on the lettuce leaves, which I do not like, though I know others do.  The mounds of carrots and onions made me dislike the salad even more (they are my least favorite vegetables), and I picked them out of the salad.  The only star of the salad was the tofu, which was absolutely amazing!  It had the perfect density and amount of chewiness.  I liked that it was fried on one side, which varied the texture and made it even more tasty.  The peanut sauce was also okay, as it had a rich roasted peanut flavor, but after the first few seconds, the wonderfulness wore off.  It was very unsalty and became bland after a few seconds.  I always compare these situations to running really quickly and then suddenly crashing into a brick wall.  In the beginning, the flavor explodes in your mouth and you think to yourself, “This is the most amazing dish I have had in a long time!”  Very soon afterwards, though, you realize “Oh no, the food was just pulling my leg.”

The Pad Thai and Chu Chee Duck came last.  I had high expectations for the Pad Thai, especially when I saw the same tofu in the dish.  However, I was severely let down again.  The noodles were extremely sweet and even a little bit sour, which is not something I look forward to in Pad Thai.  This dish was equally as unsalty and basically as bland as the peanut sauce.  It didn’t even include any short flavor explosions :frown:.  However, the tofu was delicious, as usual, but it could not save the dish.  I definitely prefer Pattaya’s Pad Thai over Lemon Grass’s, as the texture and chewiness of the noodles are perfect, and it is salted just right.  Pattaya’s noodles are also savory compared to Lemon Grass’s, which tastes of a weird, semi-salty/sweet dessert.  However, Lemon Grass made me realize how lacking Pattaya’s tofu is, so now, I’m on a new mission to find the perfect Pad Thai.

Nicole, who shared the Lemon Grass Pad Thai with me, had similar feelings:

“Regarding the pad thai, I especially liked how the tofu was prominent in both texture and taste– that’s something you don’t often see. The noodles had a decent texture, but could have had a touch more “bite” to them (a.k.a. less clumpy). The dish didn’t wow me, but it was passable pad thai. I’d be interested in returning to try the curry (which I hear is good).”

She rated Lemon Grass Thai ★★★, while I only give it ★★1/2.

Though I virtually only order Pad Thai from Pattaya, Pattaya still deserves ★★★★ in my book.  However, Edward, who has been to Pattaya previously, only gives it ★★★.  He states, “Their pad thai is too salty.  The noodles have a good bite to them, though.  Also, their vegetarian pad thai is lacking tofu…and other vegetables.”

Moving back to Lemon Grass Thai, Jessica seemed fairly satisfied with her duck.  She described the curry sauce as more of a creamy, diluted curry rather than the kind used in traditional rice dishes.  However, she also had a problem with the duck being too unsalty.

After dinner, we headed to our favorite frozen yogurt place near campus, Kiwi!  It was absolutely delicious and satisfying, as usual, and they even had new flavors this time–Thin Mint and Strawberry Lemonade!  Jessica tried the Thin Mint (among others) and raved about it, while I tried the Strawberry Lemonade (also among others) and also loved it.  The Strawberry Lemonade has a distinct strawberry taste and is also tart at the same time, giving it an authentic, refreshing lemonade feel.  Kiwi’s always ★★★★1/2 for me since I can never tire of it!  Part of the reason might be that I’m from a place where froyo has only become prevalent within the past year.  Nicole and Edward (he’s also been there previously) both rate it ★★★1/2.  They both say that Kiwi’s 49 cents/oz is way overpriced and that there is better froyo at home in California (and I totally believe them!).


Lemon Grass Thai ★★★

Lemon Grass Thai on Urbanspoon

Pattaya ★★★1/5

Pattaya Grill on Urbanspoon

Kiwi ★★★★

Kiwi Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon