Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thai Ginger – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I have driven by here a thousand times and sometimes it looks like it’s abandoned, and other times when we drive by late at night, it looks like it’s packed to overflowing. I thought I’d pop in and check it out during the daylight hours and see what’s what. When I pulled into the parking lot, it was clear they do a decent lunch business – lots of cars.

The inside is set up with two different dining rooms: one with standard four-top tables and booths, and the other that is sparsely set up with a couple of tables and some tall round bar tables in a night club. Yes, this place doubles as a night club/bar, CLEARLY. It’s got a dj booth, laser and multicolored lights, a considerable sound system, an impressive bar, a dancefloor, and signs banning drinks out in the parking lot. I bet this place gets hopping. Which is why it also makes me laugh that there was a playpen with the most adorable baby next to the giant speakers. Some people have issues with babies in the workplace, but I think it’s cute and funny, especially when they interact with customers and are laughing and having fun. This baby was all of that times a hundred.

I got a menu and a smaller list of lunch specials. The specials didn’t appeal to me at the moment and were mostly stir fry dishes with one pad thai and one fried rice dish. The regular menu was well explained and had some photos for people who aren’t familiar with Thai food. I’m a sucker for fresh spring rolls, so I got an order of those and finally decided on Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles).

The spring rolls came out first and I was impressed with their size. Really thick rolls and tons of filling. It was impressive looking and was better than average, to be honest. Not mind blowing, but it tasted fresh and was pretty generous. Even the amount of dipping sauce they brought to the table was large enough I didn’t have to skimp on any bites, thankfully.

The Pad Kee Mao was out before I finished the spring rolls. It looked good to me. There were a lot of onions, but they were all cut large enough that it was easy to separate them out. There was an average amount of chicken, which was cooked well and had some black pepper and seasonings on them. The red peppers were quite delicious, and the basil leaves were basically whole. Whole branches, in fact. I found myself eating 5 or 6 leaves at a time along with the stalk. It was fine, but I felt like I ate all the basil in three or four bites and didn’t have enough to last me the entire dish. And the noodles were not very separate. When you cook flat noodles, sometimes they stick together and the inside ones don’t get cooked all the way. It was like a dough-y pillow in some spots. That being said, the flavor of the sauce was good. The dish was about average. I certainly didn’t have any problem finishing the entire thing, but I’d like to try some of the curry dishes next time.

The servers that brought me menus, food, and drinks were very friendly and would pop in and check on the baby sitting near me (don’t worry, there was a gentleman watching her and playing with her).

Top 5 things about Thai Ginger
1. Spring Rolls
2. Pad Kee Mao sauce
3. Super friendly staff
4. Full bar – and it looks like there are drink specials during happy hour
5. Pretty thorough menu offerings

Bottom 5 things
1. Noodles were stuck together and not done in the middle as a result.
2. Pretty odd layout, but they’re making the most of the space they have
3. There’s nothing indicating it’s a nightclub – so I assume it’s top secret. The sign on the door says they still close at 9pm (I’m assuming that’s the restaurant hours)
4. The lunch specials were limited
5. The parking lot is pretty small, especially when full of cars at lunch

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