- 9114 Taylorsville Rd., Louisville, KY, 40299
- Overall User Rating:
- (6 ratings)
- Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday, 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, noon-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-8 p.m. Closed Monday.
The dumplings demanded my attention. The soup was something of a surprise. And after I dipped a fork into an order of pad bai ga-prow, I was pretty much persuaded that Thai Orchids ranks among the best Asian restaurants in metro Louisville.
Thai Orchids is a calm place. A cluster of smallish dining rooms is done up in peach and tan and furnished with a comfortable mix of booths and tables.
The only atmospheric flaw is an insufferably syrupy soundtrack of American pop. And the space suffers from one unfortunate structural feature: Because the foyer is visually isolated from the dining areas, guests sometimes find themselves waiting in lonely uncertainty until someone arrives to greet them. In due course, though, the greeting will come, with an enthusiastic smile.
And it's well worth it to wait a minute or two for the dishes that owner Supawadee Hayes, a native of Khan Kaen province in northeastern Thailand, is sending out of her kitchen.
The menu will hold few surprises for lovers of Thai food. All the classic curries, stir-fries, noodle and rice dishes are on offer, and there are enough meat, poultry, seafood and vegetarian options to satisfy nearly any appetite — especially appetites that appreciate the scratch-made food and sauces, and the vibrant tastes and smells of abundant fresh herbs and spices.
Those dumplings — steamed dumplings from the vegetarian menu — are bite-sized cylinders of firm dough filled to bursting with a lush, creamy puree of shitake mushrooms, aromatics and water chestnuts, then sprinkled with rusty, crunchy crumbles of fried garlic. Dip one into the accompanying elephant-shaped dish of piquant chili-soy sauce, and your meal is off to a very good start ($4 for four dumplings).
You could then move right along to the pad bai ga-prow — a name that conveys the dish's grandeur more aptly than the simple English translation: spicy basil. And this dish is grand, indeed. On the menu it's described as a stir-fry, but it's a wet, saucy stir-fry that reminds me of a Western braised dish.
Here, the sauce is a deep crimson color. The protein (chicken, in our case, though beef, pork and seafood are available as options) is tender and juicy. Every saucy bite carries whiffs of garlic and chiles perfectly balanced against the enticing aroma of fresh Thai basil leaves. And in a crowning touch, a lovely sprig of fresh basil garnishes the plate ($12).
Of course, you could dine on the canonic dishes of Thailand: pad Thai ($11/$12, depending on protein); pad kee mow (the aptly named “drunken noodles”; $11/$12); the refreshing salad called laab, made from of minced meat and fresh herbs, dressed with lime juice ($11).
And based on a splendid plate of Panang curry — flecked with slivered herbs and chilies, enriched by the texture of finely ground peanuts, spicy enough to bring tears to my eyes — one of my goals is to work my way through the entire list of seven curry options ($11/$12).
But the menu offers plenty of room for exploration.
One night, for instance, I put together a ginger-themed meal, starting with the ginger soup called tom som ($4/$7), a gleaming, fragrant, faintly sweet, amber broth carrying cute straw mushrooms (with their elegant caps, they looked like something straight from a Disney cartoon), slivered green scallions, cobs of longitudinally sliced baby corn and tiny shards of fresh ginger.
Then I continued with what might be the perfect summer dish: pad khing, another saucy stir-fry, this one featuring enough shredded ginger to tingle my tongue, plus plenty of mushrooms, scallions and onions, all brought together by a faintly spicy, pale yellow sauce ($11/$12) so good I scraped my plate for every last drop.
Email freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at email@example.com.