For the last year or so, I have found myself spending more time searching the signs and fascia of various strip malls across the Valley looking for new restaurants or some potential “hidden gem” that I have never stumbled across. As luck would have it, I had to have a belt replaced on my car and our family mechanic, who has his shop up in northwest Phoenix, was able to do a quick job in replacing it.
Since I was out that way, I decided to drop by Fry’s Electronics and let my inner geek run wild. As I was traveling down 35th Avenue, I had just passed Bell Road when I caught a glimpse of a sign that said there was a Thai restaurant hiding somewhere in the strip mall that resided on the southwest corner. Doubling back, I saw the name “Touch of Thai” and made a quick note to try the place in the near future.
When I mentioned this potential find to Madge and Boris, they were quick to consent to trying Touch of Thai as they are always up for a good Asian meal. So, we headed over to Touch of Thai the following Friday and hoped for the best. Pulling into the strip mall, we found Touch of Thai on the extreme west side of the strip mall. We parked and entered into the bright space. We were immediately shown to a booth in the back of the restaurant.
Our server arrived shortly thereafter with menus and a request for us to place our drink order. Madge and I had Diet Cokes ($2.00 each) while Boris had an Iced Tea ($1.50). Our server retreated to the kitchen and we reviewed the menus. Right off the bat, we decided to go a bit wild on the food because we were all very hungry. This led us to getting an appetizer each and then sharing the bounty. I chose the Fried Wontons ($5.50). Boris ordered two orders of the Thai Egg Rolls ($2.00 per order). Madge wanted the Chicken Satay ($6.95).
When our server returned with our drinks, we gave our appetizer order followed by the entrees. I went with my old Thai standby of the Paht Prig Khing ($7.95) while Madge went with her favorite of the Pad Thai ($7.95). Boris had the Yellow Curry Chicken ($8.95). We also decided to try the Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken ($7.95).
The interior of Touch of Thai was bright and airy, with little touches of Asian decoration here and there. The booths were comfortable and the place was clean and open. What was a bit odd was the pulsating dance music that heavily drifted from the speakers in the ceiling. It didn’t prevent us from hearing each other, but it did seem to be a bit overbearing at times.
A few minutes passed and our Fried Wontons arrived. The ten small pouches contained a garlicky pork filling and were fried golden brown. They were served with a pungent sweet and sour sauce. I thought the wontons were quite good, especially since they were completely crispy on the outside. Boris like them a lot as well. Madge said they were “pretty good” but didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm for them Boris and I did. I also liked the sauce that was served with the wontons. It was both tangy and sweet without being cloying.
The Thai Egg Rolls were brought next and they were spot on as far as the deep frying was concerned. They exterior wrappers were exceptionally crisp while the vegetable mixture on the inside was hot, fresh and not wilted from the heat of the oil. They were fairly simple and straightforward, but I found them delicious. The sentiment was the same from Madge and Boris.
When our Chicken Satay arrived, I was very pleased by the look of the meat on the skewers. The chicken pieces on each skewer were quite large, making the skewers look almost like paddles. The marinated meat had an orange color from the cooking process along with bits of char from the grilling. The chicken was tender and very moist while the flavor matched well with the peanut sauce. The cucumber chutney provided with the dish was cold and spicy with no complaints from anyone. The only disappointment was that the serving size of the peanut sauce and cucumber chutney was pretty paltry, but we still enjoyed the satay nonetheless.
There was a 10-minute break between the satay and the arrival of our entrees. The scent of Bori’s Yellow Curry Chicken arrived at the table a few seconds before the dish itself. It was wonderfully aromatic. The dish contained a mound of chicken, carrots and potatoes covered with a rich yellow curry sauce. Boris said the chicken was just as moist as the satay and the carrots and potatoes were thoroughly cooked, but not mushy. He found the curry to be reasonably spicy, wishing it had been made with just a bit more heat (we ordered our meals medium on the spice scale). Still, it was a good dish in Boris’ eyes.
Madge’s Pad Thai was a traditional presentation with plenty of rice stick noodles, chicken and a slightly sweet sauce. Madge said the pad thai was good, but fairly standard. I could tell from the look on her face that it was mildly disappointing. Madge is a bit of a pad thai fanatic, so if there isn’t something that really stands out, I know she can find the dish less than pleasing. Boris concurred that the dish was “decent” but did lack a certain something to bring raves.
My Paht Prig Khing was an attractive plate of pork slices and green beans in a spicy sauce. The pork was very good due to its tenderness and smoky flavor. The green beans were tender crisp and also had a fresh taste. The sauce on the meat and beans was somewhat savory and somewhat sweet, with just a bit of spice. That, however, wasn’t enough to make this rendition anything more than ordinary. What was surprising was that even with the large chili peppers as part of the dish, there just wasn’t much heat generated and the lack of spice made the dish rather flat.
I thought the best dish on the table was the Pineapple Fried Rice. The large plate contained perfectly cooked rice mixed with chunks of pineapple and chicken, then stir-fried with egg. This was an exceptionally satisfying dish and we ended up polishing it off first before anything else, leaving Madge, Boris and me to request some white rice to finish our own entrees. There was nothing fancy about the preparation or the presentation, but it was excellent.
Having finished our meals, we decided to try the desserts. Madge chose the Sweet Rice with Mango ($4.00). Boris was curious about the Snow Ball on Purple Rain ($4.00). I wanted something simple and selected a scoop of Coconut Ice Cream ($2.00). After another round of beverages, our desserts started arriving.
My Coconut Ice Cream was just as described. A lone scoop of the creamy, frosty dessert was sprinkled with a bit of chopped peanuts. I love coconut ice cream, so things have to be pretty bad to disappoint me, but this one was just fine. Nothing exciting, but a good way to round out my meal.
Madge’s Sweet Rice with Mango was the highlight of her dining experience for the night. She loved the sticky, sweet rice that rested on the side of her plate. She noted the fact that the rice was almost a thick porridge, but still had plenty of body. She also liked the mango, citing their ripeness and clean, fresh taste. I knew this was a winner for her.
The Snow Ball on Purple Rain was visually stunning with a mound of purple rice in the shape of a heart resting near a scoop of coconut ice cream. Boris took a bite and then paused. He blurted out, “Well, this is very interesting.” I never got much more form him regarding the dessert except to say he thought the coconut ice cream was pleasing. My guess is his reaction was similar to mine the first time I had purple rice and that is that it is an acquired taste. I haven’t figured out if that is from the texture or the taste itself, but it did take some getting used to.
When we finished the last of our desserts, our bill was presented. The total damage was $70.31 which included tax. The value was okay. The service was friendly and competent, but there were occasionally gaps.
We left Touch of Thai and the general consensus was that it was a fairly “no surprises” Thai restaurant. I found this odd since my research on the web noted that Touch of Thai was known for over-spicing its dishes. We certainly didn’t encounter that as our meals were pretty mild even though was asked for an elevated level of spice. Touch of Thai was satisfactory, but with the exception of the Pineapple Fried Rice and Sweet Rice with Mango, nothing else was a true stand out.
I guess I would say that if I had my car being worked on by my mechanic and suddenly developed a craving for Thai food, I would stop in at Touch of Thai for a quick meal. However, I wouldn’t make a special trip to the place.
There are just too many other places in strip malls waiting to be discovered.
Touch of Thai
16816 North 35th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85053
Hours: Monday through Friday – 11 AM to 2:30 PM and 5 PM to 9:30 PM; Saturday – Noon to 10 PM; Sunday – Noon to 9:30 PM.
Notes: Order dishes hotter than expected.
Alcohol: Full bar service