The front door opens to reveal a posh wooden bar ornamented with clean and colorful glass bottles. A turn to the right leads to the dining room. Decked out in shades of twilight, it seems elegant, spacious and modern all at once.
The host allowed my husband and I to pick one of the many window-side seats, where we began browsing menus. The wine list is succinct yet thoughtful, grouping selections by body/style (“medium bodied, semi dry to dry wines”). As our waitress approached, Dave decided upon a bottle of the Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay ($39). I also ordered an appetizer to keep us company while perusing the remaining menus.
The wine poured creamy, crisp and refreshing, and the appetizer arrived in much the same spirit. Barely seared tuna ($9), draped in a lively wasabi sauce, sat on a bed of lightly pickled cucumbers. A green shiso leaf, along with a generous arc of bright orange caviar, injected a bold touch of color and flavor. The smoothly textured fish, the warming wasabi and eminently pop-able roe were a swirling sensory delight.
We placed our orders, and very shortly had appetizer No. 2. The Thaijin platter ($12) offers a visit into the world of chef’s choice. Our gorgeous serving dish, divided into four quadrants, was another vision of beauty. Lightly fried spring rolls had a delicately crisp crust, encasing sweet and savory vegetables. Scrumptious alone, the slightly sweet dipping sauce proved to be just right in a fine drizzle.
Heavenly Beef consisted of fat sticks of marinated beef, fried dark and partnered with a fiery chili dipping sauce — consider yourself warned! Delicate dumplings held minced shrimp, crab and pork, all floating in a slightly spicy, slightly sweet soy sauce. Finishing out the tray were Thai fish cakes. While possibly not for everyone (a-hem, Dave), I loved the spongy texture and the accompanying plum sauce, crumbled peanuts and bright chunks of cucumber.
Dave and I were surprised to see two small salads brought to the table, but it seems they come along with the entree. Fresh greens were strewn with slivers of carrot and cabbage. Topped with an invigorating ginger-carrot dressing, it delved nicely into sweet/sour territory.
After a slight breather, our entrees arrived in a serious explosion of artistry and color. Dave had the laab kai ($9), a minced chicken salad. Perfectly poached poultry eagerly soaked up the lime, lemongrass and cilantro. He thought that he’d ordered medium spice, but it came mild — truly a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent presentation, down to the carrot-rose on top.
I ordered the tofu holy basil ($9). Another beautiful dish that was piled with golden cubes of pleasantly yielding tofu. Sautéed red and green bell peppers, along with bamboo shoots, nicely rounded out the body of the dish.
The sauce — oh my! I should preface this by saying that I generally like spicy foods, and many places tone it down, even when otherwise requested. Thaijindesu doesn’t play around! My first bite was a wonderful melange of texture and taste, as was the next. Then I felt the heat growing, growing, growing! Even as the temperature rose, I could still detect the unmistakable panoply of Thai sweet/sour/salty and without a doubt, the spice.
We’d already requested a little sushi, but our bellies were stuffed quite full! Our waitress wrapped it to go.
Amazingly, the kimchi tuna roll ($10) fared very well into the next day. With a core of tuna surrounded by still-crunchy kimchi, rice, nori and more fresh tuna, it again epitomized our Thaijindesu experience: classic flavors, with a bit of a twist, lovingly and artfully prepared.
BONUS APPETIZER FOR MY ONLINE READERS!
The shrimp toasts are utterly addictive! Crispy, a little sweet, and a little hot, I can guarantee you won't eat just one!
Thaijindesu Thai & Sushi Bar
2180 William Styron Square, Port Warwick, Newport News
Phone: 595-8410 Take out: 595-8401 Fax: 595-8440
Specialties: Thai, Japanese and sushi
Lunch: On the Thai menu — salad, $4-$8; main course, $9-$10; noodles, $9-$12; fried rice, $9-$14; curry, $9; vegetarian, $8. On the Japanese menu — $8-$12.
Dinner: On the Thai menu — appetizers, $5-$12; soup, $4-$5; salad, $4-$9; main course, $12-$14; noodles, $11-$14; fried rice, $12-$14; curry, $12; duck specialty, $14-$17; seafood, $18-market price; vegetarian, $9. On the Japanese menu — appetizers, $4-$8; soup/salad, $4-$6; kitchen specials, $12-$17; sushi, $4-$25 (a la carte also available).
Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m., lunch; 5-10 p.m., dinner; 7 days a week
Alcohol: beer, wine and full bar
Smoking: permitted on the outdoor patio
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Payment: cash, credit card, check
Noise level: conversational
Atmosphere: modern and elegant
Additional Information: outdoor patio, daily specials
Star rating: food 4 1/2, atmosphere 4, service 4 1/2
(out of five stars)