Garden of Delights
Proving that “pan-Asian” doesn’t have to be “bland Asian,” the homey little Euless eatery Thai Papaya Garden boasts a large menu of Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, and Chinese dishes. All your typical soups, noodle and rice dishes, stir-fries, and duck specialties are on hand here. The real victory for the restaurant and its diners is that on a recent visit no ethnic specialty was phoned in –– intricate spices, fresh ingredients, and expert preparation kept everything we tried authentic and flavorful.
The Thai beef jerky, or nuur sawan, turned out to be an appetizer in the classic and best sense: a small-portioned and sharply flavored item that piqued our hunger. Nearly two dozen dark, lean strips had been marinated in chile spices and then deep-fried (though not breaded). They were chewy, moderate on the heat meter, and loaded with an intense beef flavor nicely complemented by a thick, red sweet-hot pepper dipping sauce.
Although Thai Papaya Garden serves the beloved Vietnamese soup pho, the Viet-inspired duck soup with rice noodles arrived sans the usual pho sidecar plate of basil leaves, lime wedges, and bean sprouts. Green onions, crunchy peanuts, and bitter cilantro sprigs had been chopped up and sprinkled generously atop the dark steaming broth, which wasn’t oily or gamey. Resting atop a mound of slippery rice noodles, the half-dozen or so thick duck slices were tender and ringed with a wonderful salty edge of fat. The soup was dreamy and delicious, if not as spicy as the server promised.
The Laotian meat salad known as larb typically comes raw or cooked; the menu here offered it only cooked. Basil-flecked chicken breast had been minced small and tossed with chopped cilantro, red peppers, parsley, and a wee bit of lemongrass. The basil and cilantro combined to give the poultry a fresh, spiky flavor that was also terrifically aromatic.
Vegan and vegetarian diners who’ve grown tired of tofu as a meat substitute need to check out Thai Papaya’s spicy gluten salad. A thick curd-like substance made from wheat flour, the gluten was full of nutty, savory flavor. Big meaty pieces had been marinated in lime juice and mixed with fresh, crunchy cucumber slices, chunks of juicy red tomato, and chopped cilantro in a cradle of crisp romaine lettuce leaves.
The Thai stir-fry known as pad piroth was advertised as “The Angry Dish” on the menu, which was a suitable warning: Chock-full of garlic, onion, and a variety of crushed peppers, this mother was crazy hot. The rich, lean pork strips, crispy bamboo shoots, fat mushroom slices, and soothing hints of ginger did their best to tame the fire, but the Angry Dish ultimately conquered one self-proclaimed spice lover at the table –– after three bites, the dish was quarantined in a take-out box like radioactive matter. It was the only entrée we tried that we didn’t finish (but still took home in to-go boxes). Thai Papaya Garden’s casual mastery of diverse Asian spices and flavors left us with nearly clean plates at the end of an impressive meal.
Thai Papaya Garden
100 S Industrial Blvd, Ste 100, Euless. 817-684-9378. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Beef jerky ……………………….. $5.95
Duck soup w/rice noodles .. $10.95
Spicy chicken salad ………….. $9.95
Spicy gluten salad ……………. $9.95
Angry Dish w/pork …………… $9.95