The Macomb Daily

Some like it hot: Thai Orchid offers spicy yet tasty fare

June 20, 2003

By Stephen Bitsoli

Last November, a sign went up in a storefront in downtown Mount Clemens, which read something like “Thai Restaurant Coming Soon”. Since the Macomb Daily offices were only five minutes away, this was of great interest to me and my co-workers as a possible lunch stop. There hadn’t been a Thai restaurant here since one in the Comfort Inn closed several years earlier.

We became a little frustrated however; as “soon” stretched into months. (Another restaurant that started building later actually opened earlier, and it was built from scratch.) We began to wonder if it would ever actually open.

It did in May, and it wasn’t a disappointment. Thai Orchid Cuisine is owner Ray Yang’s first restaurant, and it’s marvelous, especially if you like it hot.

Thai Orchid doesn’t look like a cliché Asian eatery. Not that I mind good-luck idols and medieval prints and statuary, but they’ve become ubiquitous. The décor and color scheme here are subdued, with pastels and floral patterns on the benches, floral and other prints on the wall and low-key Asian accents. The calligraphic accents on the ceramic salt-and-pepper shakers, and the rectangular plates let you know you haven’t wandered into an American bistro by mistake.

The menu’s all Thai, however; with a variety of dishes available in beef, chicken, pork, tofu, veggie, shrimp, scallops or squid versions. There are more items on the dinner menu, including three duck.

Appetizers include spring rolls (similar to egg rolls, made with transparent noodles, cabbage and carrots) with a plum sauce, chicken wings with cucumber sauce (Nong Tong) and crab wonton at lunch, and adds chicken satay (grilled on a skewer with peanut sauce), fried tofu (Tofu Tod) and a Thai salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bean sprouts and tofu in peanut sauce) at dinner.  My fiancée and I opted for the delicious dinner-only crispy rolls. They’re like the spring rolls, but are also filled with minced chicken and black mushrooms (no cabbage), and served with a Thai special dipping sauce.

Soups are available by the bowl at dinner; but cups come with entrees at lunch too. There are three regular broths: Tom Yum (blend of mushrooms, green onions, tomatoes, lemon grass, kaffir leaves and chili paste, with chicken or shrimp additions if you wish), Tom Kha Kai (similar to Tom Yum, with the addition of chicken and coconut milk) and Thai vegetable soup. I think the latter came with my meal, but whatever it was, it was wonderful.

Entrees encompass fried rice, noodle, curry and other Thai specialties at lunch, plus seafood, duck and “House Specials” at dinner. The latter three categories are the most expensive, but at $11.50-$12.50 they’re still bargains.

Friend rice dishes come in basic “Kaw Pad” (with egg, onions, peas and carrots), plus variations with added pineapple and cashews, sweet-and-sour with tomatoes, “Baigrapraw” with bell peppers and basil leaves, and a house special with broccoli, peapods, shrimp, chicken, beef and pork.

There are also six noodle dishes from basic Pad Thai (fried rice noodles with egg, green onions and bean sprouts) to “Drunken Noodle” (adding bell peppers, basil and broccoli).  Some of the eight curries are familiar – the Pad Prik Khing with string beans and ginger is among the best versions I’ve tried – but others are new to me, such as potato and pineapple.

I tried the beef Pad Baigrapraw with bell peppers and fresh basil, medium style, at lunch one day. It was tasty, but almost unbearably hot. Another day, at dinner, I tried Pla Jien (fried fish, shrimp and pork with ginger and mushrooms), also medium. It was delicious, and spicy, but much easier to take, so spicing doesn’t seem to be an exact science. Which is probably why the menu warns” Management will not be (held) responsible for any food that is too spicy or not spicy enough.” I say order medium, at least the first time.

I recommended the Thai iced tea whatever you order. For one thing, there’s no liquor license at this time (though Yang is trying to get one), and for another, it’s better at soothing the heat than water or soft drinks.

The dessert menu consists of only one item: Thai-style coconut ice cream. It’s also very soothing for the throat, and very good.