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Massaman
Thai Texas’ massaman is among the best in town. Vishal Malhotra

Thai Texas
5736 SW Green Oaks Blvd, Arlington. 817-870-6057. 12-6pm Sun, 11am-2:30pm and 4:30-9pm Tue-Fri, 11:30am-9:30pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

The problem of getting your hands on some good Thai food in Arlington is summed up by the old real estate maxim: location, location, location. Thai Basil Leaf is so far northwest that it might as well be Fort Worth, and Thai House is in the heart of the traffic mess surrounding the Parks Mall. Oddest of all has to be Thai Texas. Stuffed in among a tattoo parlor, a snow cone stand, and a Taco Bueno, the year-old restaurant is but a tiny storefront in a strip mall on the edge of I-20. But the food is well worth any traffic-induced headaches you may suffer.

Thai Texas is the real deal. On a cold day, the choices of soups seemed more appealing than traditional appetizers like spring rolls and chicken satay. The silver hot pot of tom kah kai was full of chicken breast and sliced button mushrooms, with very little onion. Purists might prefer the color of the fancier wood mushrooms, but the melded flavors of the coconut milk and galangal and lemongrass spices were heavenly.

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Wonton soup may not be traditionally Thai, but if you favor a broth without the rich heaviness of coconut milk, this version was absolutely delicious. The sweet, gingery, salty base was heavy with scallions, al dente bok choi, and three plump, slightly doughy pork-filled wontons.

The entrées provided plenty to share among three diners, and ordering a plate apiece made for a liberal amount of leftovers. The pad woon sen’s stir-fried glass noodles came with an ample serving of sliced chicken breast, which paired well with the topping of slightly crunchy shredded napa cabbage, mushrooms, onions, and a scrambled egg. As with any good Thai restaurant, diners can tinker with the heat level in their dishes. The pad woon sen spiced to three stars was enough to clear the sinuses of two of the three diners, while the spice lover barely noticed.

Depending on which source you believe, massaman curry gets its name either from Muslim Persian traders who hit Thailand around the 17th century or the Malaysian word masam, which means sour. Since the curry is typically sweet thanks to the presence of spices like cinnamon and ginger, it’s a safe bet the dish has its roots in the cooking traditions of the Arab world. Thai Texas’ massaman curry is among the best in town. The sauce base was a mix of tastes that Thai food does so well: sour and salty (courtesy of fish sauce and tamarind) and spicy from the curry blend, along with the sweeter herbs. Although the curry can be prepared with meat, the pan-fried tofu provided an unanticipated bonus. The porous soy soaked up the sauce beautifully. The slightly crisp tofu would have been a great meal by itself, even without the spectacular curry.

Another winner was the pork fried rice: traditional Chinese-style barbecue pork with bright red dye around the edges, folded into a huge helping of rice and what looked to be a whole grocery cart of veggies, including peas, carrots, tomatoes, and more of that crispy bok choi. More scrambled egg garnished the top.

Thai Texas has a small dessert menu, but after soup and three main dishes, there just wasn’t room for anything more.

The restaurant had an indoor koi pond at one point, but the City of Arlington put the kibosh on an open-air fish tank. The cheerfully kitschy tiki-hut-topped booths in the dining room have a strange, almost exuberant appeal. Thai Texas is BYOB, and service at the family-owned and -operated restaurant is extremely solicitous. The pace of the courses was leisurely, probably because everything is house-made. l

 

[box_info]Thai Texas
Tom kah kai    $8.95
Pad woon sen    $9.95
Massaman curry    $10.95
Pork fried rice    $10.95[/box_info]

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