The decor at Thai Taste* hasn’t changed much from previous tenants Mi La Cay and Nava Thai — tired checkerboard linoleum, basic tables and chairs, a few new paintings and Thai artifacts on the walls. There’s nothing wrong with the slightly dive-y atmosphere, in fact it is quintessential Wheaton, and we’re glad the restaurateurs are focused more on the food than the appearance. The trick, though, is to serve food good enough to overcome the atmosphere.
* located behind Hung Phat, as I’ve said in about six different posts now, but any Hung Phat mention is a good Hung Phat mention
Thai Taste succeeds, at least to some extent. As with most local Thai spots, the menu is long, and many dishes at TT are different from what’s on offer at Ruan and Nava. Naturally, we stuck with the familiar; I like to think I am adventurous, but in truth not always on the first try.
For me, the best dish was the appetizer of grilled moo yang (pork) skewers, wonderfully charred, served with a delicious spicy-peppery-tamarind dipping sauce. Pad kee mao (aka drunken noodles) is above-average, smoky noodles in a spicy-sweet sauce with peppers and onions, nothing exciting but tasty and well-executed.
Thai Taste’s massaman curry falls somewhere between Ruan and Nava — it is rich and peanuty, but not as much (or as complex overall) as Nava’s exemplary version; it falls too much on the sweet end of the spectrum for my taste, though not as much as Ruan’s. It looks great, a large portion of dark beef and sauce in an oblong white saucer, and the beef is disintegratingly tender.
We also tried the ped pad kaprow (crispy duck), because I am a sucker for kaprow, and this version is unique (in my experience) in that the duck is breaded and deep-fried, and served in a lighter sauce with many more vegetables (broccoli, peppers, onions, etc.) than usual. It’s pretty good, although for leftovers it ends up too soggy, but I prefer Nava’s non-breaded, darker-and-spicier sauced version, where the duck is rendered to crispness in its own fat rather than relying on breading and a deep-fryer. TT’s kaprow does come with a LOT of fried basil sprinkled on top, which we liked a lot.
So many menu items we didn’t try, including about a dozen soups that I imagine are excellent, various noodle and seafood dishes, unusual Bangkok street food items (stewed pork leg, steamed pork or fish balls), and a bunch of desserts. They didn’t have any mangoes, otherwise Mrs. Me would have tried their mango sticky rice. Oh well, we’ll just have to go back.
Overall, based on a single visit, I would say Thai Taste seems just about equal to Ruan and Nava in quality, but we’ll need to branch out and try some other dishes to be sure. One area where TT beats its neighbors is on price: most main dishes are $7-9, compared with $10-13 at Ruan and Nava. Those standbys used to be cheaper, and TT may also raise its prices sooner rather than later, so I would say now’s the time to go there and gorge on relatively inexpensive, good, authentic Thai food.
By the way, service was excellent, friendly and they’re clearly working hard and happy to be there. The full name is Thai Taste by Kob — the chef is Phak “Kob” Duangchandr –and they claim “healthier and tastier Thai food” although I’m not sure breaded/fried duck qualifies as “healthier”… They spent years in Silver Spring, but SS’s loss is Wheaton’s gain. We weren’t surprised to find good food there; that Hung Phat back room keeps spawning great restaurants.