Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Emerald Thai Cuisine

Walking into Williamsburg’s Emerald Thai Cuisine was an experience in deja vu. The walls were a continuity of kaffir lime-green, broken up by immaculately maintained aquariums. A bar stretched across the far right, dangling with artsy lights, while a facade continued the smooth green theme. Meanwhile, a hostess whisked out menus, and motioned us to follow her to our table. When I sat down and saw the uniquely colored iridescent-spangled tabletop, I realized that I’d seen echoes of this restaurant in Yorktown’s Pattaya, albeit in varying shades of blue.

Husband Dave and I perused menus, faltering over the multitude of choices, which even included sushi. Not feeling particularly fishy, we finally settled upon our orders of food and wine. Our pleasant server wasn’t readily able to answer several questions, but was quick to call over another girl to help us out.

Salads came unexpectedly— we hadn’t realized these came with the entrees. Crisp iceberg was mixed with cucumber, tomato and slivers of cabbage and carrots. The peanut dressing was a little sweet and subtly spicy, if rather thickly applied.

Appetizers arrived in quick succession. The steamed dumplings ($5.95) were four fat little wonton skins. Each was filled with a deliciously savory melange of shrimp and pork, punctuated perfectly by the sweet dipping sauce.

The Beef One Son ($6.50) arrived in a dark, crispy pile. “Beef jerky!” my husband rejoiced, and dug into the accompanying chili sauce. Just as quickly, he was reaching for his water. The beef definitely had some jerky-like characteristics, but a wonderfully addictive flavor, while the sauce was pure in-your-face hot. Both plates were adorned with artfully arranged stacks of shaved red cabbage and carrot.

As his main course, Dave went with the drunken noodles ($9.95). Broad rice noodles in a thickly sticky congealed mass formed the base for minced chicken. Advertised as spicy, the poultry was surprisingly mild, with faint notes of anise and stronger crescendos of Thai basil.

When asked why this was called drunken noodle, our flustered server called over somebody who could explain. She said that she thought it had something to do with people who were drunk whipping up a midnight meal that was simple, tasty and could soak up some alcohol. And no, she laughed, there was no alcohol used in the making of this dish!

I had the spicy eggplant ($9.95), chunks of eggplant stir-fried with black bean sauce, garlic and chili. I asked for it to be “very spicy,” and got a pleasant back-burn with a succession of bites. More fresh Thai basil leaves were strewn throughout the mixture, contributing a pleasant herbal note.

There are two particular Thai dishes that I always have to try, so I got these to go. There was some trouble in getting this across to the server — we finally just asked for a menu and pointed them out to her, and motioned to the door. The tom yum soup ($4) is a classic and comforting soup. Broad slices of chicken, fat mushrooms and oddly enough, tomatoes, floated in a sour lemongrass broth. Advertised as one-pepper-spicy, it tasted rather mild, but with well-rounded flavors.

The larb gai ($6.25) is one of my all-time favorite Thai dishes. Minced poached chicken is bathed in a mixture of lively herbs and spices, and served as a cold salad with a spicy lime dressing. I’d asked for this dish to be hotter, but again, it seemed something was lost in the translation. While I didn’t taste any comforting zing of spice, it was still a nice, if tame, version.

“Hot. Sour. Salty. Sweet.” Emerald did a nice job of highlighting these classic flavors in its dishes. Still, it was troublesome to have to keep calling over another server, busy with her own tables, every time we had a question. Language barrier aside, this was a satisfying and respectable take on Thai cookery.

Emerald Thai Cuisine
264G Mclaws Circle
Phone: 645-2511 fax: 645-2512
Specialties: Thai
Price range: appetizers: $4.95-$6.50; soups & salads: $4-$7.95; entrees: $7.95-$11.95 (lunch) $9.95-$15.95 (dinner); dessert: $4-$4.95
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (lunch), 5-9:30 p.m. (dinner); Friday: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (lunch), 5-10 p.m. (dinner); Saturday: 5-10:30 p.m.; Sunday: 5-10 p.m.
Alcohol: beer, wine, full bar
Smoking: no
Vegetarian: yes
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Payment: cash, credit cards, checks
Noise level: conversational
Atmosphere: casual, romantic
Additional Information: free delivery (over $15)
Star rating: food 3 1/2, atmosphere 3 1/2, service 3
(out of five stars)


Blogger Sophie said...

the eggplant dish looks so delish!

this is really one of the simplest dishes to make anywhere in the world so long as you can get hold of eggplant and sauce package.

Here I bought a sauce pack so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.

9:48 PM  

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