A few decades ago, I had my first taste of Thai food in Reno at the original strip mall location of Cafe de Thai. As other Thai places opened, I moved on to a succession of new favorites and—for whatever reason—haven’t been back. Cafe de Thai has since moved a few times and changed its chef and menu, so it seemed like a good time to check out its new home in midtown.
My kids and I started with fisherman’s spring rolls ($11.50), one crab and one lobster, each sliced into four pieces and served with a bit of chili sauce, cabbage slaw and avocado. They also came with sides of peanut, cilantro, and sweet and sour chili sauces. The rolls were tightly wrapped, with nice crunchy veggies and fresh tasting seafood. Next was a set of four crispy corn fritters ($7.95) on a plate surrounded by garlic chili tamarind sauce and more slaw. They had the appearance of a croquette, and the inner blend of red curry, lemongrass and long bean was fairly unique. The flavor was good, but the texture was like chewing through a cake of deep fried grass—with no hint of corn.
The tubes and tentacles of chili-crusted calamari ($9) were tender, crispy and great dipped in garlic chili sauce. About a third of the plate was filled with cabbage, lettuce and sprouts, and I definitely would have preferred more squid. Crispy mushroom dumplings ($8 for six) were filled with assorted mushrooms, basil and herbs and served with sour, spicy lemongrass sauce. They were absolutely great.
I couldn’t wait to try the spicy beef and tripe salad ($10.50), served warm and tossed with mint, roasted rice powder, lime, chili and scallion. It was served with slaw, tomato, romaine leaves and garlic chili sauce. Though the flavors did not disappoint, there was a lot more side vegetation than meat, leaving us to lightly season each leaf with just a smattering of tender, spicy goodness.
Roast duck curry ($15.95) included a few bits of fowl simmered with red curry, coconut milk, tofu, broccoli, cabbage, celery and tomato. But the duck was sparse amid a sea of curry goo. Still, it was tasty, and I spooned it over jasmine and brown rice. A single rice bowl came with the meal, but we were charged $2 each for bowls we didn’t request.
Basil vegetables ($9.95) in a spicy sauce with garlic and Thai chili was pretty much everything that came with the duck, sans duck. It was quite good. Rad nar noodles ($12.95) came with fresh noodles, stir-fried beef and broccoli in a brown bean sauce. The beef was tender and delicious; however, fully half the plate was loaded with slaw and peanut, and I was again left wanting more of the actual entree.
We were offered a choice of three desserts at $5.95 a piece—sticky rice with sliced mango, Thai tea cake or coconut cake. We ordered the first two, though all three appeared with no charge for the coconut. (I guess we can call it even on that extra rice.) All three were great. The mango and sweetened rice were particularly superb together. The Thai tea dessert was somewhere between cheesecake and firm custard—lightly sweet and fragrant. The coconut slice was an ample serving of moist layer cake, and though I really wish the portion ratios had been better, it was a delicious meal.