Monday, December 26, 2011

Chaang Thai

Brand new Thai restaurant, Chaang Thai, opened recently, and a friend and I went the opening day. Located on High Street, I assumed parking would be risky. But I luckily got a spot right in front of the restaurant, deposited some coins and walked to the front door. I could see people sitting in the window from the outside, and I was just hoping they'd let us inside. We arrived at 8 p.m., and I wasn't sure how later they were open. The hostess welcomed us, handed us a couple menus and cleared off a table for us. She noted that it was their first day and to try to be patient. She also said they closed at 10 p.m.

I took a quick look around, there were raised bar-like tables along the sides of the restaurant that looked toward the middle. And the middle tables were lined up down the restaurant. We had a middle table. I looked over the menu, and it was all new to me. It's actual Thai food. Well, as far as I know it to be. The menu is super sleek. The first two pages are rice-based dishes, the next page is noodle-based dishes, and another page has curry-based dishes. Each page has a handful of dishes, and you get to pick if you want chicken, pork/beef, seafood or vegetarian. So, there are a lot of options here, but it's very user friendly. You get to first choose what type of base you want: rice, noodle, or curry. Then you look at those dishes. Once you decide on a dish you want, you get to choose what kind of meat. You also get to choose how spicy you want it - from mild, medium, and hot to "Chaang" hot.

We waited for a good 10 minutes before a waitress came over to take our drink orders. I know how restaurants are on their opening day, so I was cutting them some slack. But we went ahead and put our orders in at the same time of our drinks. We had settled on a vegetarian appetizer - the "Chaang" fresh rolls. These were soft rolls filled with vegetables, spices and tofu, all served with a peanut sauce.

For my main dish, I quickly ruled out curry, as spicy isn't my preference. So I looked through both the rice dishes and the noodle dishes. Two stuck out to me: the "Chaang" pineapple rice dish and the pad thai. My friend was set on the pad thai, so I opted for the pineapple dish, with chicken.

Our appetizers arrived almost immediately - we were quite surprised since it took us so long to initially get waited on. Six small rice paper rolls came out on a plate. I grabbed one, dipped it in the sauce and popped it in my mouth. The first thing I tasted was lemongrass and citrus. The tofu was tasteless, the carrots were muted, and there were these tiny, thin noodles that gave the roll some texture and substance. I wasn't a fan of this dish - I didn't like the acidic flavor, I was expecting something more fried. The peanut sauce was tasty, but it couldn't overcome the lemony taste. We finished them, and almost as soon as we swallowed the last bite, our entrees were out.

Couldn't believe how quick it was. A giant white dish cradled a gorgeous mixture of tender, sliced chicken, onions, peppers, pineapple, tomatoes, carrots and zucchini, with another side of finely shredded carrots. The first thing I noticed was the amazing quality of the chicken; it was slices of tender breast. Not chunks of chicken/rib meat and not fake thick slices. It was thin, tender, quality chicken mixed in this sweet and tangy pineapple sauce. The zucchini was slightly gingered, and the tomatoes and carrots packed a hint of spiciness. The pineapple sauce marinated the veggies and chicken, and the dish connected for a sweet, tangy, spicy deliciousness.

This dish hit the right notes - the flavors blended well, and it had a hint of spiciness, which is essential to much of the Thai cuisine. I also tasted the pad thai, which was excellent. The noodles were stir-fried to perfection, and had a nice texture. This dish was more on the spicy side (as requested), but easily manageable and tasty. I think I'll order it for a full taste next time. For around $20, this meal was definitely worth it. I'm happy to see another addition to the Morgantown food scene. I think this will be a crowd-pleaser.

Grade: A
Chaang Thai on Urbanspoon