I like traditional American holiday fare as much as the next person: turkeys, hams, stuffing, potatoes (mashed, smashed, boiled and baked), gravy, rolls and desserts. But a week after Thanksgiving, it all starts to feel a little … heavy. Both on the plate and on me. Thai food is the perfect antidote to weeks of festive feasting. It's everything that winter isn't -- light, bright, fragrant and fresh.
So I was glad when my friend Mimi recommended Thai Delight -- the new spot located on the corner of Arctic Boulevard and 36th Avenue in an otherwise uninspiring strip mall. We had out-of-town visitors, so I gave myself a break from the kitchen and placed a lengthy order with the courteous and efficient server who took my call. Despite the number of items, our meal was packed and ready within 25 minutes. The restaurant itself is small, but it's bright, inviting and clean.
Thai standards are well-represented here: pad thai, spring and fresh rolls, curries, larb and stir-fries. I ordered a cross-section of favorites.
The spring rolls ($6.95) are a straightforward preparation of the classic but very well-executed: light and fresh with a satisfying crackle with each bite. But the knockout dish of the night was the fried taro appetizer ($5.95), a dish entirely new to me. The taro is shredded and fried, latke-style, into crispy, lacy little pancakes and they are ridiculously good. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside with a subtle sweetness that create the perfect salty-sweet balance. "They taste like doughnuts," my friend Ryan observed. Exactly. Appetizer doughnuts. I'm in.
The red curry ($11.25) was creamy, with lots of Thai basil lending an earthy, fragrant undertone to the spicy sweetness of the coconut base. This dish was a hit and declared "perfectly spicy" by my friend Sara -- a curry connoisseur. One word of warning. This dish is very rich and very filling. I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day -- an innocent-looking half-bowl -- and I had to resist a nap for the rest of the afternoon.
The garlic-pepper shrimp ($12.95) and Thai-style fried rice (which, interestingly, features tomatoes, $11.50), were tasty and well-cooked. I love the flavorful little bits of char that come from good stir-fry technique. We also sampled the pad thai ($11.95), which to me was bland and a little too sweet. Not bad, by any means, but the least exciting entree of the meal. For the record, it was a hit with the under-12 set.
In stark contrast to the somewhat dull noodles was the spicy beef with bamboo ($11.50). Assertive and acidic, this dish was too spicy for some at the table but was an instant favorite with me. Thai peppers were balanced beautifully by mild, tender-crisp bamboo shoots. It's the kind of dish I could eat every day.
Another favorite was the larb ($10.95) -- finely minced pork soused in a spicy, vinegary sauce with a bold presence of fish sauce. These flavors are like catnip to me and I've been craving it ever since.
On our next visit we wisely doubled our order of fried taro and still managed to make them all disappear. We also opted for fresh rolls ($7.50), which were light, delicate and beautifully assembled.
This time we ordered the Drunken Noodles ($11.75) and, like the pad thai, it wasn't our favorite dish. Both the noodles and the vegetables seemed a bit overcooked and ended up sticking together in a starchy pile. The chicken satay ($11.50) was a bit underwhelming as well -- the sauce was grainy and almost seemed to have split. But the Ka-Pao beef ($10.95) was perfect -- spicy and fragrant with basil (they have a generous hand with the basil here, which I love).
Another favorite for me was the Yum Woon Sen ($12.95). Mung bean noodles give you the satisfying slurpiness of noodles without any of the heaviness. And the dressing here was perfect: tangy, bright and acidic, with lots of heat. This salad packs a punch.
I have no doubt that Thai Delight will make it into my family's regular rotation. Fresh ingredients and vibrant flavors are a welcome departure from the heavy, starchy dishes of winter. Happily, no matter the season, it's always summer at Thai Delight.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday
Location: 3609 Arctic Blvd.
Contact: 907-563-0777, thaidelightalaska.com
Eat in or take out