When it comes to Asian cuisine, most of what I know comes from what I have seen on the many Saturday afternoon chef programs on television… and I don’t believe that any of the currently-running shows features cuisine from Thailand (but what do I know -- I still get my television signal via rooftop antenna…). Therefore I have little problem admitting that I know as much about Thai cuisine as I know about how to speak Russian: almost nothing. Obviously I would have absolutely no idea if the cuisine is authentic or not. However, that does not mean that I cannot tell if food is well-prepared, fresh and tasty. After my review of Bistro Thai in Geneva, I received a challenge -- of sorts – to try some of the other Thai Restaurants that were in the area. I was surprised at the number – apparently it is I who should get out more often…
Hidden just north of Main Street (Route 64) in St. Charles is a smallish strip mall that contains a half-dozen or so businesses, one of which is Thai Zie. The narrow venue is austerely decorated with a few pictures hung high on the walls; the color scheme simple with a cream-colored wall on three sides and a bright, early morning red-orange wall on the other. The paper-topped tables grab most of one’s immediate attention, placed for maximum seating capacity more than anything else, and adorned with only short, amber-colored water glasses and paper napkin-wrapped knife and fork. We are seated by a petite and smiling young girl who becomes our waitress, then greeted and handed menus by a very soft-spoken and accommodating woman who is the mother of the owner and also the chef, Toom Wiitanen. She is very easy to talk to and Lauren and I are comfortable with our choice of venue for dinner.
Thai Zie has just recently acquired a license to sell alcohol; they currently only offer wine and beer. Lauren selected a glass of Chardonnay and I asked for a Thai beer named Chang (pronounced with a soft “an” like “ah” and it was excellent). As Toom helps us select an appetizer, I quickly learn that the Thai language is – at least for me – very difficult in terms of pronunciation. (I once thought that a Mongolian phrase with which I struggled two hours to learn was difficult. Compared to Thai – I tried to learn to say “please” – Mongolian seemed easy!) We opted for something named Kanom Jeeb: “Four generations’ recipe, steamed shrimp-pork dumplings.” Delivered steaming hot in a banana-shaped dish, five hand-made dumplings rested on some bright green leaves. Accompanied by a small portion of soy sauce (I think) and topped with crispy, fried garlic bits, this was an excellent start to dinner, and I could have easily requested three more orders and made dinner of them.
The menu itself was not large, but it took us a long time to determine what our dinner choices would be – there were lots of interesting selections that included nine house specialties like Pla Nung Manow (steamed sea bass), Crab Curry, and Chili Mussels, five different curry dishes, eight noodle dishes that could be enhanced with beef, chicken, pork, tofu or shrimp, and some great-sounding entrees. There were also some very tempting salads with interesting names like Som Tum (with shredded green papaya), Larb Kai (with ground chicken and Thai herbs), and Nam Tok (a North Eastern style beef salad with onions, roasted rice, Thai herbs, lime and hot pepper). Having been assured that the Pad Thai (with chicken): “Four generations’ recipe, thin rice noodles stir-fried with bean sprouts, egg and green onion, topped with ground peanuts and our own Pad Thai sauce” was not too spicy, Lauren made the decision to try it. I opted for one of the House Specials, Koong Ob Woonsen: “Steamed shrimp with glass noodles, ginger, and cilantro with brown sesame sauce”. The dinners were served fairly quickly, and they were both delivered steaming hot. Unfortunately, there was a very uncomfortable pause, as Lauren’s entrée was delivered first and I waited another three to four minutes for mine. Both dinners were tasty – we sampled each other’s – and filled with flavor. Lauren’s had lots of chicken and just the right amount of sauce; mine was chock full of spicy ginger and the six large shrimp were tender. However, even though I liked my dinner, I saw no indication of the brown sesame sauce indicated in the description, and the chopped cilantro was only found in a small area on the top portion of the dish – almost as if a garnish rather than part of the entrée.
In all, it was a relaxing dinner and we enjoyed the experience. Thai Zie is a great place to go for fresh Thai fare where the prices are extremely reasonable. The service was friendly but a bit confusing; we were attended by four different people at various times (it was very relaxing to see that they all smiled and were very accommodating). The restaurant had perhaps five or six tables occupied on the night of our visit; it would be interesting to watch what happens on a busy night. Whether or not you have sampled Thai cuisine before, I would definitely recommend that you give Thai Zie a try. I give it Three-and-a-Half Zins and I know that I’ll go back – I saw several more items that I really want to try!
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