This past Saturday my bride and I stopped by the Cafe de Paris French bakery (boulangerie / patisserie) to pick up some breakfast staples to go with our Sunday morning mimosas. It was there in the same building that we discovered Thai Pan Alley, an unassuming Thai themed restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating trimmed with bamboo.
The Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I had plans for the weekend but "we vowed to endeavor to persevere" in returning to the Alley at a later time. [My thanks to Lone Watie - The Outlaw Josey Wales - for that line.] The time to return arrived in a timely manner yesterday evening when we came to the startling realization that we had not made it to the grocery and our stately pleasure dome was devoid of food.
My heavenly honey and I wandered in to the Alley around 5:30-ish, before the hordes descended, and we were offered a choice of seating. We chose the inside with AC. Our server Heather inquired as to whether we would like an ice tea or a soft drink. We both gave her what was probably seen as a startled look and she amended her query to, "...or, maybe a beer?" "Nrk chı̀!" spaketh I in Thai. [That loosely translates to "Hell, yes!" and yes I did go to Google Translate.]
After presenting us with a Miller Lite for my bride and a Thai water (Singha beer) for me, Heather brought our shared appetizer, a plate of Thai Steamed Dumplings.
These steamed morsels were packed with something. I am not sure if it was ground pork or ground chicken. They weren't bad, but I really didn't detect any Thai flavors; actually more Japanese with what tasted like a ponzu dipping sauce. As we soon discovered, those dumplings set the flavor tone for the evening.
As the appetizer plates were cleared, the Belle forked into her Kiss Me Beef, really tender sliced sirloin seared in garlic pepper sauce with water chestnuts, scallions, carrots and topped with fried garlic. I should mention that she knows how to use chop sticks but, like the Thais, we both prefer forks and spoons.
This dish is served with white rice but the Belle chose the $1.75 up-charge to fried rice, a decision she was not thrilled with since it looked and tasted more like brown rice. She did emphasize that the beef was tender and tasty.
I am beyond just fond of crispy duck so I had to have the Ginger Duck: crispy duck topped with fresh ginger, onion, mushroom, green pepper, scallions, celery, and carrots in a ginger glaze.
A couple of points here: there was nothing crispy about that duck, the mushrooms had the taste and texture of canned, but most importantly there was nothing particularly Thai about either entree. Both were on the sweet side, but without the complex interplay of at least three and up to four or five fundamental
taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty,
bitter and spicy.
I did request four stars on the heat-o-meter but I did not experience "raging fire with the exotic flavors of Thai." It was more akin to an amusing tingle with the blandness of Americanized Chinese.
I certainly am not suggesting that Thai Pan Alley is horrible. It isn't! The prices are reasonable, the service was adequate, they have Thai beer, and we got full. It just isn't Thai enough for us.
Several beers, the food and our choice of a 20% gratuity brought our total for the evening to $55.28.