So I was totally jonesin Thai food today and being new to Austin I didn't have a tried and true Thai hole in the wall that I am a patron of. At about 3:00 today while I was in the middle of a 25 page document, I had the hugest craving for sweet potato fries dipped in a warm fish and cucumber sauce and a sweet, spicy pad thai. As the day progressed I started to have delusions of dancing thai ladies (see picture on left) carrying large trays of sweet potato fries, bobbing their heads back and forth, bodies undulating..
I decided I had to have Thai food and I had to have it now. Laura and I met up after we had both worked out (so neither of us felt entirely guilty about eating Thai noodle candy). We had the address and knew this place was somewhere around 6th and Congress. So we dutifully trekked downtown, parking next to a couple of homeless men yelling at each other. We literally could not find the place. We walked up and down Congress feeling like total idiots because we couldn't find this little Thai joint. I felt like I was looking for some exclusive secret-knock worthy speakeasy. We finally sucked up our pride and stopped to ask for directions (because we aren't guys). So here's a tip. Its not actually on Congress. It's actually on the south-west corner of 6th and Congress (but its really on 6th street).
First impressions were good. The restaurant looked clean. There were interesting Thai decorations on the walls, statues of dancing Thai women (sorry if they're gods, I'm pretty ignorant of Thai religion), and the obligatory asian restaurant fish tank. The place was pretty empty, but it was 8:00 on a Monday night. We were seated promptly and given sufficient time to peruse the menu.
The offerings seemed fairly limited for a Thai restaurant, which usually offers 186 different kinds of noodles/curries/soups, etc. However, the menu looked very appetizing. My mouth started salivated the second I started reading about the delectable entrees.
Laura and I, always the cheap engineers, decided we probably should split something. After discussing curries and noodles in depth, we decided on a tofu pad thai (or as this place calls it pud thai, but really, can you take any food called pud seriously?). Unfortunately, this place neglected to offer any tasty sweet potato fries, so we opted instead to get a couple of bowls of soup.
Laura picked a bright and flavorful tofu tom-yum soup. It tasted strongly of lemongrass and was definitely a soup that would pep you up (and put hair on your chest) on a cold winter day. I picked the meat filled chicken tom-kha. Rich and flavorful, the soup smelled and tasted strongly of fish sauce. It was a little off-putting at first, its been a while since this gringo has eaten anything with fish sauce. But the more I slurped, the more I enjoyed the full flavor of the coconut broth. The mushrooms and chicken were a nice added touch, but the lovely broth was truly the star of the dish.
The main course arrived as we were discussing the horrible things that happen to women's bodies as we age. Laura was telling me about a book of short essays written by a women describing her life as she aged. Apparently there will be a lot of turtlenecks and neck covering scarves in my future to hide my forthcoming turkey-waddle.
The tofu "pud" thai was almost as good as the soup. The ingredients were fresh and the noodles were every bit the "Thai Candy" I was craving. It was rich, sweet, savory, and just downright yummy. The cubes of pan fried tofu were not very..."meaty".. as Laura put it, but was definitely not the worst tofu we had ever eaten. And to be honest the noodles made up for it.
For dessert, we tried ordering one of my favorites, Mango sticky rice. My toes curl just thinking about firm, juicy pieces of mango mixed in with a sweet, milky rice. But, alas, they had no mangos, so we were stuck ordering the egg custard sticky rice. And trust me, we weren't disappointed. The rice was lightly sweetened, and delicate. The green egg custard was a little unnatural, but it is asian food, and asian cooks love their unconventional food.
All in all, Thai passion is a very delightful step up from the Thai hole-in-the-walls I was used to frequenting in Forth Worth. Though not the best Thai food I've ever had, the ingredients were fresh, the preparation was good, and the price was excellent. I will definitely be back in the future.