Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mai Thai Baltimore

Sometimes the worst situations reveal the best in a restaurant. Today may have been such a day for Mai Thai in Baltimore. I placed a take out order and arrived to find the beginnings of the lunch rush with a single employee staffing the front of the house - host, bartender, wait staff, and busser. Oh, and the phone. He never missed a call. He remained pleasant and energetic, sometimes sprinting from the front dining area back to the kitchen, never breaking a sweat or losing his smile.

Mai Thai is located on the corner of Bank and Central in the space formerly occupied by Lemongrass - a favorite lunchtime and happy hour haunt of me and my coworkers until it closed down. I am overjoyed to have Thai food near my office again, and having it exactly where I used to get it is an added bonus as walking down the street and entering the dim interior retains the feeling of an old and comfortable habit.

I miss the sofas that served as the seating area in the bar. They have been replaced with standard restaurant seating. I also miss the fountain that used to segue the bar into the restaurant proper. This has been replaced with what appears to be a sizable table for large, family-style dining. The kitchen is more open and from the entrance is a bright, golden spot at the end of the dark restaurant. Overall, though, it has retained the modern look and feel that Lemongrass established.

The menu is also very similar with the usual selection of noodles, curries, and appetizers. Fans of Thai food will have no trouble finding their favorites here. It is also worth noting that Mai Thai is owned by a Thai family. Their website includes a brief history of their business. The current location is their second restaurant as the first was destroyed in a fire.

Today, I ordered the Panang Curry with chicken, sliced chicken breast in a peanut curry with what the menu called Thai vegetables. This actually turned out to be broccoli and carrots. They were cooked separately from the curry and were steamed to slightly tender, slightly crunchy perfection. Then, the kitchen staff placed them in a separate container to prevent them from wilting while I got my take out back to the office. The sauce was also very good and had a rich and slightly sweet flavor. The peanuts were crushed so fine that they blended into the sauce lending their flavor without providing any obstacles.

The chicken was the weak spot. Often when I go to Chinese restaurants, the meat comes across as pre-prepared, and somehow over-processed, as if the sad little pieces of chicken breast or red-tipped roasted pork were prepped at some factory and shipped out from McCain's or Sysco in giant bags only to be reheated as needed in the restaurant. That's how this chicken was. It was also relatively tasteless, so it didn't really interfere with my enjoyment of the other components of the meal. But next time I'll try the shrimp.

Overall, I was fairly pleased with my Thai dining experience from Mai Thai and am glad to have Thai food once again within walking distance from the office.

Mai Thai is located on the edge of Little Italy at 1300 Bank Street. The main entrance is around the corner on Central. They are open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.

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