The Thanpaisarnsamut family’s three restaurants (Thailicious, Thai Select, Thai Rice ’n’ Noodle) are usually on the short list for best Thai food in Fort Worth Weekly’s annual Best Of Fort Worth issue. The restaurants share solid presentation and what I consider to be a blessed lack of any hint of fusion or oddness in the cuisine –– they’re all pretty traditional. So when I heard that a Thanpaisarnsamut eatery was coming to the Near Southside, one of the coolest parts of town, I was happier than Pharrell.
Don’t let the clunky name –– Spice by Thai Select’s Thai Kitchen and Bar –– keep you away. After all, it apparently hasn’t kept anyone else away. When two friends and I went for a late lunch recently, the place was packed.
We started with the tom kha kai hot pot, an extra-large serving of that creamy, coconut-and-lemongrass-infused concoction. The flavor was a bit on the mild side, though, and sadly there wasn’t the usual ramekin of chile paste or even a bottle of sriracha sauce handy. Though full of chunks of succulent chicken and dainty straw mushrooms, the soup could have used more heat.
The same was true of the pad Thai lunch special. Our server didn’t ask us how spicy we wanted our traditional noodle delicacy, and while there was a lot of food –– all lunch entrées come with a salad and choice of egg roll or spring roll –– most of it was bland. A shame, because the intricate balance of hot, sour, and sweet is a hallmark of Thai cuisine. The spring roll was also a little sticky.
When we ventured away from the lunch specials and into the regular menu, things started to get spicier. And better. From the list of specialty items that included fried mahi mahi, grilled salmon, and three kinds of duck, including something called “vegetarian duck” (we didn’t ask), my guests and I went with the pad cha talay. A spicy stir-fry of hearty scallops, shrimp, calamari, and mussels drenched in a fiery green curry sauce, the dish was beautifully presented. The veggies had been intricately carved, and there were ropes of green pepper berries. The dish was also beautiful to eat. Though some mussels were slightly overdone, the rest of the seafood was mouthwateringly tasty, and the potentially ferocious heat of the sauce was tempered by savory basil.
The best entrée, though, was the — say it altogether now — goong ob woon sen. Delicate glass noodles, plump shrimp, assorted veggies, and shiitake mushrooms had been combined with a gingery and salty teriyaki sauce in a cute little clay pot. The dish packed just the right amount of heat, and the sauce-to-noodle ratio was perfect –– not too sticky, not too drippy.
For dessert, the roti with coconut ice cream sounded good. We were half right. The problem wasn’t the creamy, lusciously rich ice cream. No, it was the roti, a Southeast Asian flatbread used here as a kind of scoop. Spice’s tortilla-like triangles were super-doughy and starchy. No biggie, though. We just finished our ice cream with spoons.
Spice by Thai Select Thai Kitchen and Bar
411 W Magnolia Av, FW. 817-984-1800. Sun 11am-9pm, Mon-Thu 11am-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10 pm. All major credit cards accepted.
Tom kah kai hot pot ……….. $12.00
Goong ob woon sen …….. $15.00
Pad Thai ………………………… $9.95
Pad cha talay ……………….. $15.00
Roti w/coconut ice cream .. $8.00