Ah, the sounds and sights of the season. “Silent Night” plays softly in the background. Plastic garland hangs festively from the ceiling. Only one problem: it’s March. We never got a chance to ask the folks at Golden Thai why they have made the decision to hang on to the Christmas spirit well into spring, but it hardly matters. We would probably put up with a Bob Hope Christmas Special playing over and over again for a shot at good Thai food. And Golden Thai delivers.
You ask for hot at this west side joint and hot is what you’ll get. While the menu gives you four levels of fire: mild, medium, hot and native Thai, a pleasant chat with our charming waitress reveals that the heat knob actually goes to 10. That’s right; the previously mentioned options are merely two through five on the heat scale. Apparently the regulars come in asking for 8, 9 and yes, even 10. And it’s not a jacked up scale. The medium has nice spice and the hot a real zip. Native Thai is quite hot.
The pad Thai, ordered hot, is still plenty savory. While the noodles are bit mushy the solid flavor makes up for it and the heat brings the dish alive. Crunchy bean sprouts, firm shrimp and bits of peanut give enough texture to keep us happy. The curries include red, green, Panang, Massamun and Hung Ray options. The red is a cocoanut base with mushrooms, bell peppers, basil and carrots. The curry is rich and spicy, a good medium in the heat level, and best of all you can taste all the distinct flavors of the add ins. Mushrooms still taste like mushrooms and the green peppers have a satisfying snap, despite the curry bath. This is what sets Golden Thai apart from many Nashville Thai joints: they cook carefully and retain the integrity of the ingredients. The thing we love about Thai food is the fact that you get so many interesting flavors that dance together, or at least they should, unless overcooked. Golden Thai gets it right.
The restaurant is a bit more expensive than other Thai places around. Dinner entrees range from $11.95 to $19.95 and appetizers from $2.95-$7.95. They have several veggie options in each section, like a bean thread clear soup or the asparagus with garlic.
Veggie Eater: Almost all entrees have a tofu option. I was really torn about what to order, and asked the waitress for advice. I originally wanted a curry item, but the waitress was kind enough to inform me that Massamun curry is not great with veggies. Thus I opted for the garlic asparagus at Native Thai heat. The waitress checked back to see if it was too hot/hot enough, which is the point at which my dining experience entered some sort of Spinal Tap like existence; yes you can make an amplifier which goes to 11…native was reasonably hot, but I may turn the knob to 11 next time just for kicks. The asparagus as generous in portion and very garlicky; there were julienned slices of pan fried garlic atop the veggies. The asparagus was crispy/soft; perfectly cooked. The Jasmine rice was fluffy and well cooked. My only complaint is that the pad Thai did not knock my socks off. Nonetheless, the asparagus dish is about the best Thai I’ve had in Nashville.
Meat Eater: The interior is stylish and modern, with cool Asian art and an interesting box style futon cushion seating that has amused us over the years (it’s fun watching people extract themselves after a big meal). The Veggie Eater will probably want a return trip soon to test out heat level 10 (or 11 apparently). I will stand by with my car keys at the ready for a quick trip down the street to St. Thomas hospital.