Menu: Thai Grille
After eating through this food list, its message of dual geographies became clear: Thai Grille is what happens when the buy-local and organic movements collide with focused Thai cooking. This collision results in one of the best Thai restaurants in Central Ohio, and likely the healthiest.
If Thai Grille's simple, small room looks unassuming, its curry-colored walls and black-uniformed servers let you know this place means business. And the business of Thai Grille is fresh, clean and never dumbed-down Thai flavors.
Soups ($4) were uniformly good, like the super-healthy, all-veggie Puk. Its delicate, onion- and shiitake-flavored broth was gently bit by galangal (like ginger) and filled with transparent soybean noodles, tofu cubes and baby bok choy.
If I had to choose between it and the Tom Kha Gai (with chicken, fish sauce, lime and coconut milk) or the subtle Tom Yum Kung (with good shrimp, lime and some chili heat), I'd be at a grinning loss.
Appetizer-wise, I'd probably opt for the dim-sum-like Chive Pancakes ($5 for two) over the interesting but small Salty Beef ($10 - like warm, tender jerky enlivened by a fiery, sort-of Thai salsa). Looking like sand dollars, the "pancakes" were more like short biscuits made with semi-sweet dumpling dough pan-crisped on the exterior. Their contrasting filling of vibrant greens made for an intriguing starter.
Pad Thai ($12), prettily presented with a top-knot of carrot threads, showcased very nice shrimp and perfectly cooked noodles. Its balance of sweet to citrus to chili heat was right on, and though I'd like more crushed peanuts, the dish was a big success.
Ditto for the excellent Pad Kee Mao (aka Drunken Noodles, $12). Wide chow-fun-like rice noodles were smokily stir-fried, seriously spicy, a tad sweet and super fun to chow on. They were fleshed out with a ton of top-notch al dente cooked vegetables (broccoli, haricots verts, peppers and onions), dropped egg, tender chicken and licorice-y Thai basil.
Fragrant Thai basil also flavored the silky green-sauced Salmon Curry ($16). Likewise rife with colorful veggies (thinly sliced squashes, baby peas, eggplant) the spicy/sweet base enhanced but never overwhelmed its tender chunks of fish.
Equally coconut-milk-creamy but even spicier was the boldly delicious red Shrimp Curry ($15). Pineapple chunks leavened its jolt of heat some, as did the sweet shrimp and a wealth of vegetables.
For an authentic and barely sweet dessert, I highly recommend the unusual and visually captivating Black Sticky Rice with Mango ($5). Thin planks of bright fruit anchored two little mounds of black rice covered in thick, slightly sweetened coconut milk.
Thai Grille makes up for its lack of liquor license with refreshing beverages, like freshly squeezed juices (orange and carrot), pots of loose-leaf fair-trade teas and an excellent, fresh-mint-leaf-flecked house ginger ale.
15 E. College Ave., Westerville
Price: $$ ($10-$20 per person)
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 12-9 p.m. Sunday