I love Thai food — and I mean love. I don't know if it's the flavors, or how they prepare the food, but something about it just gets me. I have been to quite a few Thai restaurants in town as well as the Chicago area, and I honestly can say I have never been disappointed with what I chose for a meal. What with the use of aromatic components such as basil, ginger, and chili, it's always an exciting experience for me.
My Thai (owned by the same people as Urbana's Siam Terrace) is a restaurant that focuses on providing authentic Thai cuisine and serves both Thai and Japanese dishes. I had never heard of My Thai, but when I asked around everyone who had been there loved their experience. I was told that the food served was fresh and lacked the more unhealthy aspects that one would expect from takeout Thai places — things like thick, extremely sweet sauces that would coat the food and make everything lose its flavor (though secretly I still love these places).
Though the reviews were all positive, I had my reservations about the restaurant itself. I have never had a good experience with restaurants that serve two different kinds of cuisine. When I go to places like that it seems like a good idea at the time, but it always ends up feeling as though the restaurant is over reaching and the quality of food suffers. However, I knew that I needed to give My Thai a chance and try to avoid going into the situation with preconceived notions of how my experience would pan out.
My first impression of My Thai was that it was definitely not a takeout place. The seating area was both beautiful and clean, and the air was heavy with delectable spices. I brought my sister with me because she loves spicy food just as much as I do, and we both felt that we were going to be pleasantly surprised.
The menu had a ton of options, separated by categories like sushi or stir fry. The amount of options made me nervous, mostly because it has been my experience that the more food options there are the more likely the dishes are lower in quality. Still, I looked at the details of all the dishes and everything sounded good. Normally I go for dishes with an emphasis with basil, but this time I wanted to try something different so I decided on the pad Thai for $9.99 and a Thai iced tea for $2.99. My sister chose the orange chicken for $10.99. We also ordered edamame($4) and a spicy tuna roll ($6.99) because we have no self control.
We started out with the edamame, which is steamed soybeans seasoned with salt, and the sushi roll. Thai food tends to be a bit rich in flavor, so I was thankful to start out with lighter food options. The edamame looked almost like snow peas with a more vivid green color. It was steamed just enough that the beans were still a bit firm in texture, but soft enough to be enjoyable. The the salt brought out a nutty quality in the bean, and it was very tasty. The spicy tuna roll was also good and very beautifully arranged; the sauce was the most flavorful aspect of the dish. The main ingredient in the sauce was definitely chili, and it paired beautifully with the tuna. The tea was also extremely tasty, using strong tea and sweetened condensed milk, which made the drink sweet and creamy. While these dishes were delicious, they did not hold a candle to the main course.
My pad Thai was amazing. The history of pad Thai is a bit murky — no one really knows if it came from Vietnam or China — but it's considered one of Thailand’s national dishes. Traditionally pad Thai is made with dried rice noodles, eggs, fish sauce, and a variety of vegetables. Mine included scallions, ground peanuts, and fresh bean sprouts. The dish was arranged well; the fresh bean spouts stood out strikingly against the noodles, which were more of a reddish-brown color. The flavor of the sauce was so good, a sort of mix of sweet and savory.
The noodles were very sweet, but the peanuts balanced out the sweet factor. The noodles were an interesting texture, not at all like wheat-based noodles. They absorb the flavors of the dish and were almost gummy in texture. Anyone eating this dish with the mindset of regular pasta would be taken aback. Overall it was definitely one of the best pad Thai dishes I have ever had. That being said, the orange chicken my sister got was quite possibly even better then that.
I like orange chicken, but often it is way too sweet and the sauce that is used is overbearing. I have to say the exact opposite is true of the orange chicken at My Thai. The chicken was almost like fried chicken in texture: perfectly crunchy and extremely moist and tender on the inside of the chicken strip. I am not sure what kind of panko was used in preparing it, but my goodness, it was perfect. The sauce was very thin and very sweet, so I was glad that it did not smother the chicken. Despite the sweetness, it was very good. An actual orange flavor was present, brightening the flavors of the steamed vegetables. The vegetables consisted of broccoli and carrots, and they were very lightly cooked so they were still very crunchy. I found that I really liked them this way, especially paired with the chicken. This was absolutely the best orange chicken I have ever had.
With the great service I experienced there as well as the great food, I would definitely recommend My Thai to everyone. I was a bit suspicious of the overwhelming positive reviews, but now that I have gone there I can honestly understand why. I am believer now, and I bet others who try it will be, too.
My Thai is located at 2312 West Springfield Avenue and is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9:30 pm.
All photos by Merry Thomas.