By Craig Sailor
The News Tribune
One can be forgiven for strip mall overload. There’s only so many nail salons, tanning joints and Teriyaki #1′s a person can take before the eyes glaze over. And yet to dismiss the ubiquitous Asian restaurant simply because of its location would be a disservice to some potentially good eating.
Chili Thai is a three-restaurant chain (University Place, Puyallup and Lacey) that doesn’t stray far from the tried and true Thai-American strip mall formula. But it’s in the preparation and presentation of the food that gives these restaurants a little edge over their competitors. Quality ingredients – well prepared and presented on elaborate dishes, often with fresh orchids – are the hallmark of this eatery.
The setting: The University Place Chili Thai location tries for a somewhat upscale ambience with dark walls and booths but stumbles with mismatched furniture. A loud (visually and audibly) refrigerator emblazoned with Coke logos in the middle of the dining room gives the eatery a frat house feel.
Appetizers: We started with the reliable standby of chicken satay ($7.95/top photo) and were rewarded with four generously sized chicken skewers. Accompanied by peanut sauce, a pickled carrot-cucumber-onion salad, toast points and a mound of shredded carrots, the coconut milk marinated chicken had satisfyingly dark grill marks on it. Neither the sauce or seasoning took away from the savory pleasure of the chicken.