Since opening its original location in 2003 in downtown Boise, Mai Thai restaurant has dominated the Thai food category in Boise Weekly's annual Best of Boise issue. Readers first noted their enthusiasm for the eatery's complex layers of invigorating Thai flavors starting in 2004, when Mai Thai was rated the best new restaurant of the year. In every BW Best Of issue since then, the hip eatery has continually topped the Best Thai and Vegetarian categories. It's no wonder since there's something for every palate. The extensive menu features 15 appetizers, six kinds of soup, 12 salads, seven vegetarian dishes made with meat substitutes imported from Taiwan, 16 noodle dishes, 16 types of fried rice, 31 entrees and eight curries. And that's not counting the delectable goods available from the sushi bar.
The assignment to review Mai Thai fell during a particularly hectic week of seemingly endless assignments and looming deadlines. By Friday night, I couldn't wait to knock back a frou-frou martini or three over some Thai fare with my husband at the Eagle branch located in the Eagle River Shopping Center near the intersection of Highway 44 and Eagle Road.
The restaurant's interior is divided into sections. First is the waiting area, which could easily win an award for the Grooviest Lounge in Town for its futuristic, padded walls and cube seating. A large light panel that changes color every few seconds punctuates the bar. Beyond the lounge is the dining room, comprised of the main room and a pair of wings on either side that act as semi-private rooms with views of the patio, the traffic on State Street and a glimpse of the Foothills in the distance. A separate sushi bar sits off the main dining area. An exotic mood is set by the interior's red walls, an abundance of large oval lamps overhead and a giant golden Buddha statue that gazes down upon a long reflecting pool in the main room.
As we checked out the menu, my husband realized he'd left his reading glasses at home and asked would I please read the menu to him. In doing so, I quickly noticed there are many tempting drinks and dishes at Mai Thai. We started first with a Singha beer ($4) for him, a ginger lemonade ($7.50) for me and a Sugar Ray roll ($12.95) from the sushi menu to share.
My ginger lemonade was as stiff as a karate chop, but was barely chilled and in need of ice cubes from my water glass. The sushi roll's clean flavors of tuna, salmon and yellowtail were the perfect foil to the crisp, tangy taste of my cocktail's Yazi ginger vodka, Absolut citron, triple sec and lemonade garnished with julienned sticks of fresh ginger.
For dinner, my husband chose the pad Thai noodles with beef ($12.95) while I opted to make a meal of the miang kum appetizer ($6.95). The pad Thai noodles appeared overcooked, and on the tooth, they were disappointingly mushy.
Miang kum is a do-it-yourself little dish, which consists of building little wraps using Romaine lettuce leaves and tangy bits of diced fresh lime, ginger and shallot, salty dried bay shrimp, sweet toasted coconut and crunchy peanuts. I drizzled a sweet, molasses-touched syrup over the parcel before I rolled it up and popped it into my mouth. Mai Thai's version is among the best in town.
Aside from the mushy noodles and barely chilled beverage, I was pleased with the service and food we received at Mai Thai in Eagle. Look for them at the top of the list again next year.
—Jennifer Hernandez dominates the category for Best Menu Reader On Behalf Of a Husband Who Leaves His Glasses At Home.