Palm Thai Restaurant: Viva Krung Thep
Three words: Thai Elvis impersonator. Roll your eyes if you must, but it's one of those kitschy cultural phenomena I secretly admit that I really enjoy. It's fun in the 1970s fat Elvis era kind of way where the less you take it seriously, the more you appreciate it. Listen to the Elvis song “Yoga is as yoga does” and you'll see what I mean; It's just a hoot.
Palms Thai also serves food. I remember having a very good meal here a couple years ago, and I wanted to see if this meal would live up to those expectations. Returning two years later, I can think of a few ways in which my dinner experience had changed. This time around, the dining room was a lot more crowded, a great deal louder, and was awash in a mix of scents: a potpourri of spices, fish, and the diner at an adjacent table who must have marinated in Axe before showing up.
The menu is dauntingly large. One of my friends searched for a good five minutes trying to find where the chicken satay was hiding. Even if you can't find the one item you're looking for, you'll find a number of other dishes that look just as good. Because most options are less than $8, and the portions are served family-style, there's no reason to not order anything that catches your eye. If none of the items strike you as exciting enough, then turn to the last page. Do you like boar or quail? The “wild things” section of the menu has all of those and some selections that are even a little wilder than that. Deep fried frog, anyone?
If anything, the family-style serving is one of Palms Thai's best assets. My dinner companions and I thought we had chosen dishes we weren't totally happy with. The special bbq beef with lime and garlic was too heavy on the lime for me but a friend who loves ceviche adored it. On the contrary, I enjoyed the pork panang curry for its excellent marriage of the coconut cream with spices, but others in my dinner party thought the result tasted a bit like butter. Between all the options on the table, we each found something we really liked and were happy to take home as leftovers. We all agreed the chicken satay was phenomenal, but thought the wontons could have used a bit more meat. None of us left unhappy.
The dinner was just like my initial reaction to the Thai Elvis impersonator. After some hesitation at first, and a little time to let it all marinate, you find that it grows on you. A pad thai I felt was a bit heavy on the fish sauce the evening of the dinner had transformed into something glorious in its takeout container the next day. It's the sort of restaurant where a group of four or five people will all make mental notes of what to order next time. And trust me, there will be a 'next time'. Viva Palms Thai and long live The King.