05/26/2006 — Have you ever noticed that most Thai restaurants in Boise are located in strip malls?
Pat's Thai Kitchen is no exception, situated next to Hollywood Video in the Ram Plaza on Broadway Avenue.
This new Thai place has established an ardent clientele since opening in November.
The small dining room is dominated by an incredibly large print (velvet-like with enhanced colors) of Bangkok's fabled Wat Arun temple, just above a row of maroon-colored booths. There are also plenty of Thai travel posters to ponder while munching on pad woon sen and citrusy beef salad.
Owner Pat Wangnaikul hails from the northern city of Chiang Mai, yet the menu features offerings from all over Thailand.
One hot evening, we looked to fight fire with fire by ordering the spicy eggplant ($8.95), a piquant stir-fry of fried tofu cubes, red chilies, soybean paste, fresh basil leaves, red bell pepper and diced eggplant.
We extinguished the flames in our bellies with cold bottles of Singha ($3.50), a smooth Thai beer.
The spiciness continued with an order of roasted duck curry ($12.95). This crispy half duck, which was tender and juicy, came in a pool of fiery coconut milk-infused red curry, mingled with fresh pineapple chunks, sweet peas, bell pepper, carrot and basil sprigs.
A bowl of fragrant jasmine rice was there to help soak up the spicy sauce.
We cooled our palates with some rather bland egg rolls ($3.25); fried little logs packed with an unremarkable mixture of cellophane noodles, carrot and cabbage, served with a monkey dish of mild sweet chili dipping sauce.
The delicious num tok salad ($8.95) more than made up for the lackluster appetizer.
Tender pieces of grilled pork came mixed with julienne red onion, garlic, fresh cilantro, lemon grass and kaffir leaf chiffonade — splashed with a refreshingly zesty lime dressing.
Pat's Thai Kitchen also serves a grilled beef salad (with tomato and cucumber) called yum nua.
I must complain that no knives or chopsticks were offered to us, and the flimsy little paper placemats caused the plates to move around on the table, like a car steering wheel.
After being told that the place didn't serve coconut ice cream (or any other tropical fruit ice cream), we left for home, to raid our private stash of frozen lime bars.
On a lunch visit, we asked for the regular menu because Thai appetizers were on our minds (if you don't ask, they only give you a scaled-down lunch menu).
We started with orders of fried shrimp wontons ($6.95) and beef satay ($6.25), which were skewers of (somewhat tough) beef served with mild peanut sauce and cucumber-red onion salad.
The meat boasted great marinated and smoky flavors; it just wasn't pounded long enough with the old mallet tenderizer before it hit the grill.
On the other hand, the shrimp-stuffed, crunchy wontons were excellent, served with syrupy orange dipping sauce.
We could have easily eaten two orders of these golden brown wontons.
After washing down our appetizers with glasses of creamy Thai ice tea ($2.25), we chose two entrees from the lunch menu.
The garlic chicken ($6.95) was a flavorful heap of black pepper-flecked chicken breast (extremely tender), wok-seared with lots of garlic, carrot, onion and cilantro sprigs in a vinegary sauce.
We also enjoyed the pad woon sen ($6.95), a toothsome tangle of silky glass noodles, with fork-tender pork shreds, egg curds, carrot, bell pepper, scallion and cilantro.
All in all, Pat's Thai Kitchen does a commendable job with both service and food.
James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at email@example.com.