BY EMMA SLONINA, Staff Columnist
Fancy is nice, but sometimes all you need is some good food from a hole in the wall. Nothing beats quick, cheap food after a long day at school and work.
Now, Royal Oak is better known for its more upmarket establishments, but tiny Thai Café on Washington Avenue is the perfect take-out-after-a-long-day kind of place. Right across from OCC, plenty of students shuffled in and out while we ate there, all picking up huge brown paper bags of food.
Though it’s small and caters more to the take-out crowd, there are 6-8 sturdy wooden tables for dine-in guests. The décor does not immediately scream take-out and if the phone hadn’t been ringing off the hook, you would think it was just a nice little café.
The place was empty when we got there. While I usually take this to be a bad sign, the traffic in and out was consistent all evening.
The menu is fantastic – dozens of entrée choices, as well as half a dozen appetizers, and a page of noodle and rice dishes.
Overwhelmed with choices, I ordered a spring roll, Thai iced tea, and decided on my old reliable: pad s’ewe. Most people rely on pad thai to determine if the restaurant is any good, but pad s’ewe is such a simple dish that if they can’t even get that right, the rest is probably hopeless.
My tea and spring roll came out almost immediately. The tea was chemical-y. It tasted of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on; I sipped at it all night trying to figure it out. Maybe their iced coffee is better, but after the caustic tea, I’d be loath to try it.
The spring roll was only slightly better. It was full of black pepper, overwhelmingly so, but the veggies inside were at least crisp and juicy. At this point, I was anticipating a very mediocre meal at best.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, when our massive plates of noodles and rice arrived at the table moments after I finished my spring roll. My pad s’ewe did not disappoint. Nice wide noodles, slightly chewy, slightly soft. Fresh, crunchy broccoli. Plenty of spice (maybe more than there should have been; I ordered it with medium heat, and I definitely saw red chili seeds throughout).
And the chicken. Oh, the chicken. Thai chicken, when done right, is so unbelievably juicy and tender. Melt-in-your-mouth tender. I’ve heard they simply dust it in flour and cook it. There has to be some physical labor involved in this, though. Some manual tenderizing. There is no way that cooking alone could get the chicken that insanely soft.
My boyfriend’s pineapple rice went down a treat, as well. I’m not a fan of pineapple cooked into things, but he’s a pineapple fanatic and happily munched away. I tried some of the rice and had to agree that it was excellent. Not too dry and not too saucy – just right.
Our waitress came with boxes and the bill as soon as we put our forks down. Efficient, yes, but I had hoped for dessert. They had coconut ice cream, lychee fruit, and a steamed banana cake that sounded intriguing, but those will have to be for another trip.
It cost us $25 for both our meals, including tax and tip. Not bad at all, considering I had a lunch-sized portion of noodles and the rest of my boyfriend’s fried rice to take home afterwards.
Open daily for lunch and dinner. Contact (248) 336-0710.