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Dreaming of drunken noodles at Thai Cuisine and Noodle House

Look no further than 2.5 miles off Grounds for authentic Thai and Vietnamese dishes

<p>The price point was almost as appealing as the food itself, with a variety of Thai and Vietnamese dishes &nbsp;under $17.</p>

The price point was almost as appealing as the food itself, with a variety of Thai and Vietnamese dishes  under $17.

After my big in my sorority and I spread the word about our dining experience at Oakhart Social last month, the rest of our “family” — including my cousin, grandbig and great-grandbig — wanted seats at the table, too. As we all sent suggestions in our group chat for somewhere that we could affordably dine, my great-grandbig suggested Thai Cuisine and Noodle House, citing the drunken noodles as the best she has ever had. The price point was almost as appealing as the food itself, with most options under $17 and the most expensive item we ordered costing just $13.50.

Thai Cuisine is located northeast of Grounds on Commonwealth Drive, about a 10-minute drive from central Grounds. Though it is not within walking distance, it is definitely worth the ride. The eatery welcomes diners from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. for lunch and resumes service from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. for dinner.

Thai Cuisine opened in 2014, and the restaurant’s owners, Jay Pun, Rob Snitrak and Pong Punyanitya, look forward to celebrating their upcoming 10th anniversary. They pride themselves on offering a large variety of Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Most notably, Chef Sunun Saranai pioneered their Thai noodle bowls, and they also introduced Vietnamese Pho to the city of Charlottesville upon opening.

We walked in around 6 p.m. last Thursday evening, and the abundance of people already enjoying dinner was unsurprising given the numerous flattering testimonials Thai Cuisine has on Google. The simple decor consisted of several Southeast Asian paintings and a “wall of fame” highlighting photos of diners. Thai Cuisine loves accommodating and serving a fresh meal to musicians on the road, such as distinguished guests Rashawn Ross and Carter Beauford of the Dave Matthews Band and French guitarist Pierre Bensusan, whose faces are featured on the wall.

We all noted how it was characterized by a very casual and homey ambience. The welcoming staff certainly contributed to the coziness of the restaurant. We had a few different servers, and I admired how they worked collaboratively to ensure that the dining experience was seamless. As someone who is sensitive to even the slightest bit of spice, I appreciated that my water glass was never empty. Everything was brought out piping hot — an added bonus as the aromas lingered in the dining room.

We placed our first order of six items at once, and it all came out within minutes of each other. After snapping a quick picture of each delicacy, we passed each plate around and discussed our thoughts on each dish. Though it was simple, the first appetizer was something I insisted that we order — a plate of edamame. It was steamed to perfection and decorated with flaky sea salt. I started the meal with a handful of the soybeans and also used them as a palate cleanser throughout.

The second appetizer we tried were two orders of fresh Vietnamese spring rolls. Each plate came with four halves of rice paper stuffed with lettuce, shredded carrots and rice noodles. The contents were crisp and the peanut sauce was unparalleled. The dip’s key ingredient, tamarind, was a sweet and sour fruit enclosed in a pod, traditionally used in Thai food because of the duality in flavors. Of course, we had to ask for more peanut sauce.

The first of the main dishes that we split was the green curry, which we added chicken to. The coconut-milk base of the dish derived its subtle green color from curry paste and was fused with bamboo shoots, bell peppers and Thai basil. The curry was creamy and provided a mouthwatering burst of spices. It was served with a plate of steamed white rice, and I decided to pour it over the accompanying dish. The earthy flavors made it a standout course.

My personal favorite of the night was the simple Thai style fried rice. The dish contained eggs, onion, peas and carrots, and we again requested the addition of chicken. The rice was topped with an assortment of raw vegetables, including green onion, cucumbers and tomatoes. It boasted a chewy texture and a tangy flavor. We all felt that it was even better than other fried rice we’ve had in the past, likely due to the lightness of the rice that seemed to melt in our mouths.

At this point in the meal, we were all getting full, but that did not stop us from devouring the pad thai, one of Thai Cuisine’s most frequently ordered dishes. As with the previous plates, we selected chicken as our protein source. The heart of the pad thai was stick rice noodles paired with egg and chicken, mixed in a sharp and sour tamarind sauce. The crunch from the peanuts and smooth noodles was a great combination. It was garnished with bean sprouts and scallions that were a refreshing contrast with the richness of the dish.

Finally, we all excitedly indulged in one of Thai Cuisine’s most popular dishes — drunken noodles. The standout element of the dish was the wide rice noodles, which were extremely doughy. It also contained a number of different mix-ins, including onion, chili peppers, bell peppers, Thai basil and garlic. For days, I have been thinking about the spicy soy sauce — which we modified to be mild spice — that, in tandem with the chewy noodles, made this an outstanding dish. The only complaint I heard is that it wasn’t bottomless, so we ordered another plate of it to share.

This was the first meal I’ve had in a long time in which I did not have an appetite for dessert, but this was solely because each item we had was so tasty. I was amazed by how the tamarind sauce and variety of spices created a cohesive link among all the dishes, tying the dinner together and leaving everyone feeling satiated. Though I did not get to try a sweet treat to top off the meal, I am already planning to return to dine there again before the end of the semester.


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