What’s my favorite national fare? How about “Whatever I had last”?
If you press me, though, I’m a big fan of all the cuisines of Asia, from the Levant through Iran, all the ‘stans and India, across Southeast Asia to China, Korea and Japan. I love the tastebud-tantalizing complex aromas and flavors of just about all Asian fare, but there’s a special place in my heart for India, with its exotic, spicy curries; and for China, with the colorful mix of textures and flavors that inform its many regional cuisines.
And then there’s Thailand. Perched midway between India and China, it picks up subtle influences from both. Flanked by warm oceans and reaching up to mountainous rain forests, its near-equatorial heat is matched by its striking use of fiery chilies. Mmm. Yes. Maybe if you push me I’ll admit to liking Thai food best of all. Today, anyway, since that was the last thing I ate.
What’s more, I’m delighted to report that I enjoyed that meal at the city’s newest Thai Restaurant, Time 4 Thai. This charming little eatery opened in mid-July in the Frankfort Avenue quarters that has housed a surprising string of eateries, from several recent short-lived Cuban and Mexican places back to the stylish Danielle’s and, earlier, a Korean place, a Jamaican place, and even the original Lynn’s Paradise Cafe.
I can’t explain all that turnover, but right now, happy about first-rate Thai food, I hope Time 4 Thai can break the curse.
Decor is simple but pleasant, with off-white walls and quarry-tile floors, a large brass Buddha head and, in keeping with the clock logo that reflects the restaurant’s name, Time 4 Thai, there are lots of clocks that all show different times, none of them correct.
The menu offers a good overview of Thai cuisine, with 15 appetizers and about 65 entrees divided by category, including rice and noodle dishes, curries, dinner-size soup and salad courses and more, ranging in price from about $10 to $18. Apps are $5 to $8.
We dropped in for dinner and came back for lunch another day, and were happy both times. Service was well intentioned and will likely benefit from experience as time goes by. One tip: Until they learn to ask the level of heat you desire, speak up if you want your dish medium, very hot, or, if you dare, Thai hot. On our first visit we didn’t ask, and got no heat at all. On the return trip I requested just-plain hot (three stars out of five) and got just about the heat I wanted.
Golden Triangles ($5), a fried tofu appetizer, really impressed us. Two-bite tofu triangles were deep-fried and served grease-free, shattering crust surrounding meltingly warm tofu. A bowl of chopped peanut and chile sauce added a flavor dimension.
Mee Krob ($6) is an iconic Thai appetizer, a ball of thin rice noodles and shredded onions marinated in tamarind sauce and rolled into a sticky, crunchy birds’ nest. Mary, observing the sweet-sour tamarind, wanted to save it for dessert, but I couldn’t wait. Both apps, and main dishes, too, were attractively plated with sliced red bell peppers, carrots and green onions and decorated with a pretty carrot “flower.”
I usually order Pad Thai ($10.95) at any new Thai restaurant as a benchmark, and Time 4 Thai’s stands up to the competition. Although I wish I had requested a little heat, it really didn’t matter, as its heady mix of aromatic flavors and well-handled combination of soft rice noodles and crunchy bean sprouts, along with the smoky scent of Asian food properly cooked in a searing wok, still hit the spot.
Laab Gai ($11), a popular Thai chicken salad, was pretty good, finely chopped chicken in an aromatic dressing with lime juice and Asian fish sauce, strewn over lettuce greens and garnished with sliced veggies and tomato chunks. The chicken, unfortunately, was not evenly chopped but contained random gristly lumps, bits of cartilage and boiled skin, perhaps the result of the kitchen’s thrifty use of bits left over after other fancier chicken dishes had been built.
We returned another day at midday and ordered from the lunch menu, which features 15 items, all priced the same at $7.95 if you have them with chicken, pork, tofu or additional veggies; $9.95 with beef or shrimp; or $12.95 with mixed seafood. Lunch specials come with good steamed white rice, but egg roll, soup or other extras are available only as optional extras from the dinner menu, which is available at midday.
Fresh ginger stir-fry and Panang curry were both good, straightforward Thai dishes, no complaints, but I think we’ll most likely come back more often for dinner’s wider selection. A Thai iced coffee ($2.95) was refreshing and good at calming the three-star heat, but I was startled to get this traditional sweet coffee in a mason jar topped by a mound of Reddi-Wip.
Dinner for two, with iced water to drink, was $34.95, plus a $7 tip. Lunch another day, with two lunch specials and Thai iced coffee, was $20 plus $4 tip.
Time 4 Thai
2206 Frankfort Ave.
Robin Garr’s rating: 85 points