That was all I needed to hear when I interviewed Matchimo Danpo months ago about the special dishes she planned to offer at the Thai Avenue restaurant (now open) in the K-Mart Shopping Center on Tilghman Street in South Whitehall, not far from the Upper Macungie border.
Described as stir-fried flat noodles with broccoli, tomato, onion, bell peppers, egg, chili and basil leaves, it sounded so delicious and tempting that I knew exactly what to order when my mother-in-law and I stopped in for lunch on a recent Thursday: Lunch special 10. Drunken Noodle.
Danpo had told me that, contrary to what many people think, not all Thai food is spicy. She preferred to think of it as fresh and healthy, with lots of vegetables and herbs good for digestion. The menu at the small, eat-in or takeout, BYOB restaurant offers provocative specials such as “Lobster Tom Yum,” made with coconut milk, lime leaves, lemon grass, cilantro; “Emerald Salmon” made with carrot, avocado and a green curry sauce, and six duck dishes.
When our waiter asked if “medium spicy” was OK for my drunken noodles, I said “yes,” and to keep in line with healthy options, I chose tofu as the protein portion of my meal instead of chicken, beef or pork.
The price of $7.99 was a great deal for the generous portion served on pretty white china – one of 18 lunch specials that come with a small house salad with a yummy peanut sauce dressing every weekday. However, this being my first official sampling of Thai food, I probably should have started with “mild spicy.”
The noodles were delicately thin and drapy, loaded with flavor from the gravy-like concoction of onions, peppers and other veggies. The tofu came in small chunks and was tasty too but also a bit dry and chewy. I would have loved more fresh, stir-fried broccoli and tomatoes in the mix. As it was, I could not finish the portion and did not take the rest home.
My mother-in-law Ginny chose #6, the cashew nut lunch special of cashews, onion, scallion, celery, bell pepper and pineapple to which she added chicken. It came with a big, fluffy ball of white rice. She shared a few of her cashews and taste of pineapple with me because the dish contained plenty, she said.
Ginny forgot to ask for her meal without onions, which can bother her stomach. Instead, she pushed a few to the side. The flavors and textures must have agreed with her because she finished her serving and ordered dessert as well.
Desserts include fried ice cream, fried Asian cheesecake, sticky rice with mango and sticky rice with coconut ice cream, each priced at $6.99. Ice cream alone, with flavors vanilla, chocolate, green tea or coconut, costs $4.99.
Ginny ordered the honey banana with coconut ice cream and was told the restaurant was out of coconut ice cream but could substitute vanilla. That was fine with her. The banana bits came wrapped in a thin phyllo dough, light and crispy. A big dollop of what Ginny said was French vanilla ice cream disappeared from the center of the plate before it could melt.
Service excelled even though the place was full and had only been open a few weeks.
I would love to return to this restaurant and try more items on the menu, including chicken satay, which is grilled chicken on wooden skewers served with cucumber and peanut sauce ($7.99); honey duck, a half boneless crispy roast duck with carrot, green peas, cashews and a homemade honey sauce recommended by a friend ($19.99); pineapple fried rice, made with pineapple, onion, peas, carrot, scallion, tomato and cashews ($11.99), and “seafood in love,” with jumbo shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels, asparagus, onion and bell pepper with soy bean chili paste ($19.99).
Danpo, a native of Thailand, knows her cuisine. Her family came to the states six years ago, she said, and opened their first Thai restaurant in Scranton. Danpo's uncle in Thailand and a partner, Charlie Kiewkajee of the Poconos, own Thai restaurants in Bethlehem, Emmaus and Wilkes-Barre.
Judging from the flurry of customers and the fact there are few Thai restaurants in western Lehigh County, I’d say Danpo’s venture will be a lot more successful than its predecessor, Burrito Grille.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; and for dinner, 5-9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and noon to 10 p.m. on Saturdays. The address is: 4791 W. Tilghman St., Kmart Shopping Center. The restaurant is closed Sundays.
THAI AVENUE RESTAURANT
4791 W. Tilghman St.
K-Mart Shopping Center