Sunday, November 05, 2006

Thai Landing

Baltimore Magazine just gushes over Thai Landing (though the City Paper is less enthusiastic). Thai Landing is a (sort of) cheap Thai restaurant just a block or two between Mount Vernon and the train station. Typical entrées run around $13 to $16, which, to me, is not cheap. But it is cheaper than some of the nearby restaurants. So when I lucked out and found a parking space right in front of the restaurant, I decided to try it (the restaurant across the treet being booked until 9 pm - giving me an hour wait - also kind of influenced my decision).

The folks at Thai Landing are very friendly and happy to seat you quickly, and the service is friendly, too. But I didn't want to order a big entrée. What I decided to do instead was go on the suggestion of an article I had read just the day before in the Travel section of the New York Times online, on travel to New York (it also had one on single travel - the way I prefer to travel, actually, and the way I usually do travel). It suggested a cheap way to get around the ridiculous prices at many New York restaurants (like one I ate at a few months ago before a showing of Sweeney Todd): order a few appetizers and "create your own tasting menu." Not a bad idea, so I decided to make a cheap restaurant even cheaper by doing just that.

Apparently that happens at Thai Landing a lot, because the proprietor, who seated me, took my menu with a grin after I ordered two appetizers and soup. Not large portions, but after all, they are appetizers, so what does one expect size-wise?

After looking over the apetizers section, I opted for two of way too many that looked good. One was the yum pla mueg, a dish of "fast-cooked squid seasoned with herbs, chili paste and lime juice" - served on a bed of lettuce. The second I chose was the yum pet yang, or "sliced roasted duck seasoned with herbs, chili paste and lime juice" - again, on a bed of lettuce. So I guess yum means something like "seasoned with herbs, chili paste and lime juice" or something like that. The spices of the duck and squid were pretty similar, and both received the restaurants's 2-star heat rating - enough to leave a little "kick" on the tongue. Their rating goes from 0 to 5 stars. Many dishes have no stars, but none had 5 - the highest rating I found was 3 stars; several dishes had this rating. Should I be afraid to try those? Naaaaah.

Along with the two appetizers, I ordered one of my favorite soups, thom kha gai (I'm used to seeing tom kha kai, but hell, it's the same thing). This is "chicken and straw mushrooms in coconut-galanga soup." The coconut usually counters some of the spiciness. I am used to more chicken and vegetables - and a little bit of tomato - in my thom kha gai than this soup had. There was mostly coconut-galanga broth. Slightly disappointing in that sense, but still flavorful. Hell, I'd order it again anyway.

For a drink, I just stuck with a safe and simple sweet Thai Iced Tea with cream. Can't go wrong with that!

My appetizers and soup came out all at once, and the proprietor asked if I would like some white rice. Normally, extra rice with an entrée is $1.25, but when I asked how much it was, he said I could have it on the house! Very nice! But I wasn't prepared for the food to be cold. I had just assumed that it would be hot. But technically it is a type of salad, so I suppose it is normal to serve it that way. The coldness threw me off, but the spiciness was good, especially with the rice. The duck and squid, for what they're worth, were nothing remarkable, but it wasn't an unpleasant eating experience. And it wouldn't keep me away from Thai Landing either. The spices and herbs are what made those two dishes.

Another thing to note: they have no chopsticks. So if eating Thai cuisine without chopsticks doesn't sit well with you, suck it up and grab the damn fork!

The squid came to $6.95, and the duck to $7.95. Along with the soup, at$3.95, and the drink at $2.50, I ended up shelling out about $25 after tax and tip. So it wasn't the budget meal I had hoped for, but there are more expensive places to eat in this city.