By John DeFore
Although it has seen its share of eateries come and go, the location of the new Mon Thai must be one of the easiest sales a rental agent could make. Nestled in a quiet office center on a nice stretch of Broadway, it is bordered by a lovely courtyard on one side and an attractive tree-lined parking lot on the other. The decor inside still feels a bit new (a few relief sculptures don't quite fill the blank white walls) but already it's a lovely spot. At noon on a weekday there was a respectable crowd, but the efficient wait staff had no trouble attending to everyone.
The restaurant has a full sushi bar (a fair number of varieties priced at $3.25 to $3.95 for two pieces), but my mission on this visit was Thai. After wondering what "Shrimp in a Blanket" might be, my companion and I started with pan-seared pork dumplings. Large and well-cooked, lightly crispy around the edges, they were served with a perfectly tangy soy sauce that compensated for the Thai iced tea and iced coffee we ordered. The drinks were a little too cloying, even considering the inherent sweetness of a drink made with condensed milk.
Prominent sweetness was a theme that afternoon: The Pad King with chicken was more sugary than either of us would have liked. The menu advertises its fresh ginger sauce and, indeed, there was a good bit of ginger perched atop the dish, but both of us would have taken a lot more. The level of spiciness felt engineered by cooks who have little confidence in American taste buds - although San Antonio has enough Asian eateries nowadays that diners should be given more credit for spice tolerance.
No such complaints, though, for the Drunken Noodles with beef. Listed as "medium spicy," it had just the right heat, and a lively smoky flavor with a slow-delay burn. The beef was slightly less tender than the chicken, but the texture of the rice noodles beneath it was very good: chewy and dressed with just the right amount of sauce. (Less sauce, though, than you might guess from the dish's name.) Mixed with fresh vegetables, chiles, and basil, this could easily become a favorite dish.
Both entrées were preceded by a very small salad with a sweet vinegar dressing. The lettuce was a bit soggy, but was offset by crisper ingredients. (Friends dining at a table nearby said they had been offered soup instead on a previous visit.)
The portions were large enough that, although we finished everything on our plates, neither my friend nor I was interested in exploring the dessert menu. If the Pad King had been a little tangier, we might have felt motivated to sample the sweets - but we both left satisfied, agreeing that the spot was worth a nighttime visit, when the trees would likely give Mon Thai an isolated, romantic feel that belies its accessible location. •
By John DeFore