When: Sunday, February 22nd 2009
Where: Thai Noodle House (in a alley of Guadalupe by campus)
What I Had: Appetizer: Shrimp Spring Rolls w/ peanut sauce. Entree: R5, Ga Prow Gai, or in English: ground chicken stir fried with bamboo shoots, green beans, Thai chili peppers, jalapenos, and Thai basil. C2, Chicken Pad Thai: sticky rice noodles with stir fried chicken and Satay's pad Thai sauce.
Thai Noodle House is one of the first places that Claire took me when we got to Austin. Actually, the first time was before we lived here and we were just on a visit. Since it was close to campus it had quickly become one of Claire's stand by restaurants, since she went to UT for a year. As such, it has quickly become on of our favorite Thai places as well as a good stand by when we can't think of anything else to eat when in the area. This particular Sunday Claire was craving some Chinese food, strangely enough we ended up at Thai Noodle House which is obviously Thai not Chinese. We were okay with this though.
There are a few ground rules for Thai Noodle House (henceforth known as TNH). First, to get a great experience out of the restaurant you need to sit on the patio. Especially during spring (IE: February) in Austin. The inside is bland and boring. Second order tea or water since they have no fountain drinks and you will probably consume some sort of spicy food. Therefore you would pay an arm and perhaps a leg for refills on soda. Instead you could quench your thirst with multiple refills of water or tea. Third, you have to order the Shrimp spring rolls. There is something so fresh about these babies. I can't describe in culinary terms how good they are. What really makes them so great is the sauce. It is always the sauce, isn't it? TNH's peanut sauce is some of the best peanut sauce in town.
The last rule: don't expect amazing and friendly service. I mean, you are eating in a restaurant that is literally in a alley. You are being served by Thai women or men that speak very little English and come from a different culture. Just remind yourself that you came for the food not to be treated like royalty. So when you come across yelp/citysearch reviews that tell you the service is horrible, well they aren't too far off. Just don't forget that the Thai food is why you are there. Plus on 8 out of 10 of those reviews the person says the food is great but the service is bad. So what I say is the food is great and I am happy as long as I have food in front of me and water to drink.
My Ga Prow Gai had a honest level of spice to it. It's the kind that makes your lips tingle a bit after having eaten 1/2 the plate, But not the kind where you have a 1 glass to two bite ratio of water. It was just right. The flavor combination and sauce on my plate was spot on and it was a solid meal. I can't say this dish is 5 stars, but I would give it a 3.5. What I can vouch for is the Green Curry. Its hot, spicy, and packs the flavor into a little bowl of heaven. Although I didn't get it this time around I will almost always fall back on this if nothing else is hitting the spot.
The wife ordered her fall back, Shrimp Pad Thai. She is a huge fan of Pad Thai. Me not so much, I like keeping my noodles with my Italian food and my rice with my Asian food. Maybe that is a bad way to look at it but call me, well I don't know what to call me, I just like it that way. From what we could tell the noodles were a bit overcooked and therefore emphasized the sticky part of Sticky Rice Noodles. The overall flavor was good. Even I went back for a second bite.
A few quick thoughts: I really believe that they should somehow turn their peanut sauce into peanut butter, jar it, and sell it to me. I will buy a case. Like I said this isn't a restaurant to go be treated like royalty. It is a Thai food place in a alley. You get what you expect out of things and since I am eating in a Alley and my food is delicious TNH almost always exceeds my expectations. Plus for $6-8 bucks a plate you can't beat the price. That price mark is also great considering we always take home leftovers.
Food = A, Service = The food is good enough service doesn't matter.
Can't Miss: Nice patio to enjoy the weather, Shrimp Spring Rolls with the best peanut sauce in Austin, wonderful Green Curry
Could Do Without: Sodas in a can, minimal parking, bland interior decor and atmosphere