It takes more than great food to create a great restaurant. I was thinking about this the other day while eating at Thai Chef in Lahaina. See, Thai Chef is a great restaurant, but I wanted to know why.
One key element is the atmosphere. While the restaurant itself is small, comprised of one dining area packed with little tables, it’s cozy and inviting. The dim lighting creates a candle-like glow further emphasizing the inviting atmosphere.
In addition to a nice ambiance, you need a capable and welcoming staff. Thai Chef accomplishes both these tasks. The servers are attentive, knowledgeable and very friendly. They’re willing to answer questions about the menu, always bring your food while it’s still hot and—perhaps most importantly, given that they serve mouthwatering Thai food—they never leave you with an empty water glass.
When I had the pleasure of dining at Thai Chef, my roommate Brooke and cousin Danielle came along with me. We each picked a dish for the three of us to share.
As expected, Brooke ordered the Chicken Pad Thai ($9.95), thin rice noodles mixed with egg, bean sprouts, green onion, chicken, and peanut sauce, topped with crunchy ground peanuts. Danielle decided on the Matsaman Curry Tofu ($9.25). That’s a variety of mixed vegetables and tofu simmered in coconut milk and yellow curry paste. I went with the Thai Beef Steak ($9.95), thinly sliced beef grilled with onions and tangy Thai steak sauce, served on a bed of chopped cabbage.
As we waited for our food, we recapped the past weekend’s events and made plans for the coming week. We paused briefly when three steaming plates of food arrived at our table but quickly picked up our conversation while passing plates and dishing out our dinners. While the conversation had been going strong up to this point, it came to a screaming halt when we began eating. All attention shifted to the delicious food in front of us.
As my mom would say, it’s a good sign when your guests are more concerned with finishing their plates than their sentences. This meal was definitely a winner.
The Pad Thai was cooked and seasoned perfectly. The chicken was tender and juicy and the vegetables were crunchy and moist. The curry was equally delicious, prepared medium spicy, it had a nice kick but would not overpower anyone with a sensitive pallet. The vegetables were fresh and flavorful and a good texture contrast to the soft tofu. The Thai beef steak was wonderful also. The tender meat and crunchy cabbage went well together. To be honest, anything would taste great if you drenched it in that steak sauce.
With dynamite food, a courteous and competent staff, pleasant setting, and reasonable prices, Thai Chef is easily one of my favorite restaurants on the island. I should also mention they don’t serve alcohol but are perfectly happy if you BYOB. MTW