Wednesday, March 21, 2007

pad thai - a slight obsession

i'm on a quest for the perfect pad thai. it's almost a guarantee that if i see it on a menu, even if my intentions are otherwise, the words "i'll have the pad thai!" will pop out of my mouth.
much like the search for the perfect pizza, the concept of 'the perfect pad thai' is much too subjective to yield a definitive answer that everyone agrees on. there are variables in the way pad thai is prepared and depending preference, my ultimate pad thai may look nothing like your perfect pad thai.

this being said, the variables are:
composition or ingredient ratio - what's the ratio of noodles, protein, sauce, veggies, egg and garnish to one another?
sauce - flavor, texture and viscosity, how sweet is it, tangy, salty, hot? is it too greasy or worse, gritty?
rice noodles - are they broad or thin? cooked to the correct texture?
protein - is it properly cooked? or is it over cooked?
garnish - are there plenty of peanuts? bean sprouts - are they over cooked or raw? lime for squeezing over?

here's a sampling of the places i've had some good and not so good pad thai:
haiku (short north)- great, but not consistently so. the sauce is a bit on the sweet side and when over applied can be overwhelming and greasy. good composition, i like the mix of veggies and proportion of noodles to the rest of the ingredients.
jason's (dublin) - sorry to be negative, but wow, this was a huge disappointment. they've named their's "columbus' best phad thai" and it didn't live up the night i had it. the whole thing was dry and the shrimp were overcooked to the point that they were inedible. gross. they also served lemon as a garnish. not right.
lemon grass (short north) - ok, not remarkable. too spicy as i recall.
thai orchid (sawmill) - tasty. the sauce is a bit "brown" for my taste. high quality meat cooked properly.
tai's asian bistro (lane ave) - great veggies and good noodle/ingredient ratio. good attention to garnish, even on take out. consistently good. plus these guys are friendly.
china market (north market) - to be frank, don't bother with this place. the orders take forever and the best pad thai in town is a mere 20 yards away.

my favorite pad thai in columbus:
nida sushi (north market) - the noodles are broad and springy, perfect for holding the right amount of sauce. speaking of which, nida's sauce is excellent. the flavor profiles are right on and it's never overwhelming. the sauce is the perfect highlight to the high quality/properly proportioned ingredients. the service is always friendly, fast and they are consistent about getting the "mild, medium, hot and extra hot" levels that they offer just right. the peanuts (i love peanuts) are decidedly present but not too much and the bean sprouts are wilted the perfect amount, retaining a bit of crunch. the egg and shrimp are never burned. awesome. i could eat this twice a week for the rest of my life.
i'm sure other items on their menu are excellent but as much as i want to try them, i'm sure "i'll have the pad thai!" will be all that comes out when i order.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

i too am always on a quest for the best pad thai...the finest i have found is at Coco's Grill. the service is not friendly at all, but the pad thai is so good, it's the only food i will tolerate bad service for. do NOT however go to Thai Tai over on king in grandview. for saying it is supposed to be authentic thai, it is the most bland dish i have had yet. i'll need to try nida's

cindy said...

Try Bangkok Restaurant and Pad Thai Restaurant on Refugee Road. very yummy pad thai, plus Bangkok has great pad kapow and Pad Thai has great curries as well!

Anonymous said...

try nongs at northwest and king in the grandview area. it's my favorite in the city.

Anonymous said...

Your so right about Nida's! Plus for under $6 bucks you can't beat it.

Anonymous said...

Bangkok restaurant on Refugee Rd for me too. I've been going there for 16 yrs now.

Anonymous said...

Bangkok rest on refugee rd for me too! I've been going there for 16 yrs now.

Joe said...

While I like Mark Pi's Pad Thai in general because of the amount you get for the price, the one on Morse Rd is exceptional. I recently moved to Cincinnati and I will make it a habit to go back to that location the next time I am in Columbus. I have tried all the locations on your list as I am myself a Pad Thai enthusiast. I thought I was the only one! I do have to thank you for your list because there was a couple on there when I found it that I had not tried yet. Best Pad Thai I have ever had is in Toronto at a place called Golden Thai Restaurant. Simply amazing, almost worth the trip alone just to try it!

Joe said...

While I like Mark Pi's Pad Thai in general because of the amount you get for the price, the one on Morse Rd is exceptional. I recently moved to Cincinnati and I will make it a habit to go back to that location the next time I am in Columbus. I have tried all the locations on your list as I am myself a Pad Thai enthusiast. I thought I was the only one! Best Pad Thai I have ever had is in Toronto at a place called Golden Thai Restaurant. Simply amazing, almost worth the trip alone just to try it!

I Think I've Gone Mad said...

tried pad thai for the first time today my first experience was from the Lotus Leaf on west broad because i work on west broad and they deliver... don't have anything to compare it to but it was EXCELLENT in my book, and the portion was huge. i'm a big guy and a big eater and the portion they gave me was literally enough for two meals