One of my favorite restaurants to order take-out from is Mai Thai in the Mandarin Oaks plaza on San Jose. We decided to switch it up and venture in for lunch recently to get the full experience. It was a fun exercise to enjoy one of my favorite restaurants in a new way.
dThe restaurant is decorated very tastefully, mixing bright colors with traditional Asian design. The interior is unexpectedly detailed based on the look of the shopping center. When ordering to-go I tend to stick to more familiar flavors (when eating in the restaurant I am a notorious food watcher and become more adventurous), so I was excited to see what other dishes they had to offer. The menu has a lot of options, but we were disappointed when we tried to order steamed dumplings and brown rice, both listed, and they did not have either.
After an audible, we decided to start with crispy spring rolls ($7), Tom Kha Kai soup ($4), and a house salad ($4). The spring rolls were crispy on the outside and the flavor was good, but you couldn’t differentiate between the filling ingredients. Tom Kha Kai soup is a chicken and vegetable soup with a coconut milk base. The broth was a little thinner than I am used to, but flavored well, with a slight sweetness from the coconut, heat from chili peppers, and freshness from the lemongrass. I thought the soup had plenty of meat and veggies. As a salad lover, I judge restaurants by their dressings (devil’s in the details!), and the ginger dressing on their salad was well-balanced.
For the main event, we wound up sticking to the usual and ordering Gan Keow Whan (green curry) and Panang Curry (red curry). You have the choice of shrimp ($16), beef ($14), chicken ($13), or tofu ($13). In addition, they ask how spicy you like your curry- mild, medium, hot, or thai hot. WARNING: the spectrum of heat is different than what you may be used to. I enjoy spicy food, but there is a difference between hot and thai hot. The older I have gotten, the less my body likes the really spicy stuff. We ordered both with chicken and asked for the green curry medium and red curry hot. I thought the food was presented in an elegant manor. I appreciate that the curry was kept separate from the rice (I’m one of those people). The main difference between the 2 curries is the type of chili that is used. The red tends to run a bit spicier and proved to be so, especially since my husband ordered it hot. The flavors were good with heat that builds, making your mouth tingle and brow bust a little sweat. The green chili has good flavor, but less of an afterburn. Next time, I think I would order the green hot and red medium.
Although I was disappointed that the menu wasn’t up-to-date, the overall experience was a positive one. The curries had good flavor and we had enough for another meal. Mai Thai is another great option in Mandarin for a night in or a night out!