Now that I’ve resumed dining in with last week’s Monnik Beer Co. review, it’s back to sitting down at a restaurant table every week, right?
Well, no — not necessarily. This week, for instance, I got takeout from Simply Thai. Before I tell you about the food, let’s talk about this.
Our dining habits, it seems, may have changed after a year of pandemic isolation. Now that we’re getting a peek at the new normal, it appears that some of the things we learned during this strange year are going to stick with us. Such as the way we do restaurant dining.
B.C. (Before COVID), I never did takeout or delivery. I like dining in the restaurant’s environment. I generally shunned alfresco dining, and I wasn’t wild about takeout.
But when the pandemic shut down indoor dining just over a year ago, suddenly takeout — ideally with the curbside pickup option — started looking a lot more attractive.
I’ll confess, even after Dr. Fauci said you couldn’t get COVID from eating stuff, I was a bit wary. But after a month without a restaurant dish, I couldn’t take it any more. I got my first curbside meal in April from MozzaPi, and it made me happy. Then just like that we were eating restaurant fare every week, and it worked really well for me.
Sure, I missed the restaurant experience, but plating an excellent meal — that I didn’t have to cook — made up for a lot of that. It was thrifty, too: It was easier to stretch takeout leftovers over a couple of days than to get and use a restaurant doggie bag.
So now that I’m in the habit of easy takeout, I don’t want to quit, and I imagine a lot of you don’t, either. Just keep in mind that to support our still struggling local restaurants, we want to order often and tip as generously as we would in the restaurant.
I chose Simply Thai for lunch this week because it’s a favorite. As I hoped, we got a good quality meal for a fair price in startlingly generous portions. My box of pad thai weighed almost three pounds on the kitchen scale. Not only was it good, but it took me three or four days to finish it all.
It’s easy to fashion your order on Simply Thai’s online menu. It offers a broad selection of traditional Thai dishes, a shorter list of sushi and a few items that appear to blend Thai and American traditions.
Fifteen appetizers range in price from $3.95 (for edamame pods) to $7.95 (for Thai satay or a sushi roll or tempura). Just about everything else on the menu other than curries and entrees is under $10. The five curries are all $11.50, and the entrees are mostly under $20, save for a few fancy dishes that top out with the appropriately-named $29.95 Amazing Seabass, a pan-seared 8-ounce sustainable Chilean seabass filet in green curry sauce on zucchini and rice noodles.
One of our apps, tod mon moo ($6.95), consisted of six Thai-style beef meatballs on two skewers. Very crisp on the outside and finely textured within, they were flavored with coconut flakes, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, seasoned clearly with garlic and ginger. They came with a small tub of hot-sweet pineapple sauce but were just as good au naturel.
Another appetizer, nam prik ong ($6.95) is the Thai version of the lettuce wrap that seems to show up in various forms in most Asian cuisines. A large wedge of crisp iceberg lettuce and prettily sliced cucumbers were boxed alongside a good-size portion of fiery Thai red-curry sauce filled with your choice of silken tofu cubes or ground pork. Spread a little sauce on a piece of lettuce, add cucumber and enjoy.
Green curry ($11.50) was rich with coconut milk, surprisingly sweet and disappointingly short on Thai basil, with just a single wilted purple Thai basil leaf in the bowl. On the good side, it was chock full of inch-long green bean bits and tender, garlicky slices of boneless chicken white meat in a simple but tasty green-curry broth. We ordered it at a gently piquant 1 heat level on the 0 to 5 scale. It was served with appropriately sticky white jasmine rice.
Pad thai ($9.50) is the national dish of Thailand, the menu points out, and in my experience every cook brings individual variations to the table. The proportions of ingredients in Simply Thai’s version were a bit different from most, but it passed the taste test. As I mentioned, the portion was huge, and most of it consisted of thin, soft rice noodles. Traditional pad thai will bring just about one crisp bean sprout for every soft noodle in pleasing textural contrast, but this had almost no sprouts. Ditto for scanty crushed peanuts and bits of egg. Nevertheless, it boasted good flavor and hit the median 3 out of 5 spice level on the nose.
Lunch for two held up nicely in attractive, reusable plastic boxes on the drive home. The tab came to a reasonable $37 plus a 20% tip.
323 Wallace Ave.
Another location: 12003 Shelbyville Road, 690-8344