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Thai-hot, and not 

Why had I never tried Thai tea ice cream before?

Been to Thailand, eaten at dozens of Thai places internationally ... nothin'. Then along comes newbie Thai Mint, which converts its excellent Thai iced tea, liquid crack for the masses, into an ice cream for dessert ($2).

It's not quite dialed in yet, with some ice chunks creating an inconsistent texture, and the tea flavor coming in only after about a five-count of store-bought vanilla ice cream flavor. But the restaurant still earns points for creative thinking and experimentation. And it's certainly a pretty scoop, its rusty orange color accented by black tea-leaf speckles throughout.

Thai Mint itself is pretty enough, occupying the former small dining area of Nana Longo's Italian Market. The bright space sits just blocks away from competitors Thai Basil and Mandarin Bistro, the latter of which features a large Thai section on its Chinese menu. (Ladies and gentlemen, we have a mini Thai district.)

At Thai Mint, some kinks detracted from otherwise decent and affordable, MSG-free meals. On both lunch and dinner visits, orders were mixed up by the sweet and well-meaning staff: shrimp brought on the dish ordered with chicken; veggies brought on the one ordered with shrimp; another table's food delivered to us two minutes after we'd ordered ours. Some plates arrived minutes before others, spilling steam as they awaited company.

Along with communication, consistency was an issue. Anytime you visit a new Thai outfit, you dip your toe in the water with a first visit: Will its Thai-hot rating be too hot? And how will the mediums and milds rate?

If in your second visit, a place delivers the same consistency, you can relax into knowing that you're, say, a hot at Wild Ginger, a Thai-hot at Taste of Thai Spice, or a medium at Arharn Thai.

But Thai Mint hit heat levels all across the board for us. A Thai-hot was someone else's hot on an otherwise satisfying, basil-amped drunken noodle bowl at lunch. A mild pad Thai ($7.95) was really mild, one of the weakest in town; yet the perfectly average Masaman curry, ordered hot ($7.45), tasted like another outfit's standard mild.

All that said, none of these dishes lacked flavor, though a pad se ew with tofu and broccoli ($6.95 at lunch, includes egg roll and meat choice) was dry. Our pad kra tiam prik tai, with a punchy garlic and pepper sauce over squid, shrimp, krab and whitefish (a $2 upcharge at lunch) was tight, as was the pad woon sen ($6.95), a light, lovely, clear-noodle stir-fry.

Thai Mint's tom ka gai soup ($6.95, large) is less thick with coconut milk than most, but delivers a strong lemongrass flavor with generous chicken portions. And the tod mun fish cakes starter ($3.95) shows off ample lemongrass and kefir lime leaf flavor, with a nice sweet dip.

I don't have to tell you what to try for dessert. It's an ice cream flavor that rhymes with "mighty," and hopefully it really will be, one day soon.

matthew@csindy.com

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