Thai in Bloom
The atmosphere inside Thai Orchid in a small Haltom City strip mall is a little rough around the edges. On a recent weekday dinner visit, clear plastic sheets covered the white tablecloths, and each of the multiple wall-mounted TVs was turned to a different, muted channel. The place was intended to be more of a late-night weekend take-out joint –– it’s open until 4 a.m. Thursdays through Sundays –– so most regulars probably don’t care about the ambiance. But our own experience dining in-house was mixed. Some of the items were terrific. Others needed improvement.
We started with an appetizer of house-made sliced pork sausage, and it was a spicy, meaty delight. The ground pork was tender and crumbly but not at all greasy. The secret mix of spices inside seemed to include curry and lemongrass, and the final flavor was less hot than slightly sweet and earthy. Served with white rice, it would’ve made a nice lunch entrée on its own.
The thum muah, or papaya salad with noodles, was a little problematic. A papaya salad is typically light and cool, an excellent summer choice. At Thai Orchid, the fruit had been cut into a slaw-like mixture with pieces of fresh red cherry tomato and prepared in a hot vinaigrette sauce. The advertised “meatballs” were thin, square slices of smooth pork. So far, so good. But the thin rice noodles were so numerous they weighed down the salad, and the fish sauce was a little too heavy and aromatic.
The pad Thai with chicken proved to be decent but a bit disappointing. This dish of flat rice noodles, brown tamarind sauce, tofu squares, ground peanuts, carrot strips, and green onions is the default choice at most Thai restaurants, and Thai Orchid’s version came to the table steaming hot but a little dry and overcooked. The pan-fried noodles were rough and curly around the edges, and the tamarind sauce lacked that special fruity tartness, though the lean chicken chunks and savory onions were good together.
The red chicken curry, on the other hand, was marvelous. Haphazardly prepared red and green curries can be either thin or gritty, but the sauce here was creamy, decadent, and wonderfully spicy, with hearty chunks of lean chicken, crisp bamboo shoots, crunchy bell peppers, and an unexpected addition: small hard-boiled quail eggs that lent the dish a nice heartiness. Ladled over sticky white rice, this chicken curry was what Southerners call a “stick-to-your-ribs” meal.
Haltom City has become known over the years as a North Texas mecca for lovers of Asian fare prepared at family-owned restaurants. Thai Orchid certainly hits the spot if you happen to be nearby and jonesing for some curry at 3 a.m., but the cooks will need to step up their game a little if they want to best the formidable competition.
4900 Broadway Av, Haltom City. 817-838-6687. 11am-4am Thu-Sun. All major credit cards accepted.
Pork sausage ………….. $5.95
Pad Thai w/chicken ….. $7.25
Red chicken curry ……. $7.50
Thum muah ……………… $7.00