TNT Diner

Good eats and drinks around Tacoma, Pierce County and South Puget Sound

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Archives: July 2009


Chili Thai rises above the crowd

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.

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.

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