Sunday, November 14, 2010
2861 Logan Street
It seems that Pad Thai is becoming as ubiquitous as fried chicken in these parts. Well, maybe not to that extreme, but there are plenty of Thai restaurants in Nashville. The real question these days is the quality of that Thai food. Lately, there have been signs that new proprietors are stepping it up a notch. Ginger Thai restaurant in South Nashville continues the trend.
It’s modest enterprise in a new strip mall just off Thompson Lane. Ginger is nestled in between the International Food Mart and Laolanexang Oriental Market. Inside, you’ll find a simple 15 table dining room with warm, rich colors, modern lighting fixtures and a sleek décor. Ginger has been open for a little more than five weeks now. The service is both welcoming and efficient. Any signs of opening jitters were quickly made up for with enthusiasm and a genuine care for the food being served.
You’ll need to do a little digging to spot the menu differences between Ginger and other Thai restaurants in town. Start with the house made Udon noodles. You’ll find the creamy noodles enhanced by a savory chicken broth spiked bright with generous cilantro, green onion and flecks of red chili. It’s an excellent chicken noodle soup. On to the green curry, which even ordered mild has a strong kick to it and husky flavor with tremendous depth. This isn’t your average Thai curry. It’s evident that a lot of time and care has gone into cooking down the coconut milk, basil, chili and kaffir lime leaves.
Tom Kah Gai also stands out in the flavor department, assisted by plenty of lemongrass and ginger. The distinct, bold flavors bring the soup alive. The coconut milk red curry for the Kang Ped Phet Yang is spicy and yet not overly so. The duck has a chewy, but tender, consistency and pairs well with the Thai eggplant.
After sampling so much good food we often bypass dessert in favor of the check. This would be a mistake at Ginger. Warm rice pudding comes covered up in a cold, sweet custard that is slight reminiscent of injera bread. Don’t look, just eat. The sticky rice and the sugary custard are a wonderful pairing. They promise house made ice cream and will crack open a coconut so that diners can drink the milk and eat the fruit inside.
Veggie Eater: I’m a sucker for Thai noodles, so I opted for the Lard Nar on this first trip. It was a truly interesting concoction of fresh noodles served atop crisp salad greens and topped with big blocks of tofu, carrots, and broccoli. The noodles were well cooked; no mushiness here. The corn and broccoli still retained most of their snap. The tofu added chewiness. I inquired to ensure it was veggie friendly and was told it was, but did not specifically inquire as to the broth base. The broth was light, mildly hot, sweet, and salty. A great play on flavors and textures. The next time, I opted for the ubiquitous Pad Thai. I realize that traditionally this is not a hot dish. However, I really like it this way and Ginger was happy to oblige. I wouldn’t call it “native” Thai hot, but respectable. The waitress assured me we could up the ante in other dishes if necessary. Again, the folks were kind enough to substitute tofu, for the meat choices, in the Pad Thai. It was chock full of the usual Pad Thai goodness: sprouts, peanuts, chives and eggs. All the ingredients maintained their individuality, instead of becoming a big gloppy mess, as so often happens. It seemed a tad bit heavy on the fish sauce to me (and although on rare occasion I will relent and have a shrimp or a scallop, I don’t really like fish). What really knocked my socks off was the green curry. It is everything I love in a food; soothing from the coconut milk, spicy from the peppers, tart from the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and balanced by the basil. Since the Meat Eater was partaking, we did not ask for the heat to be altered and it brought a happy glow to our tummies. I found myself ordering ice tea and was given a choice of Thai or sweet ice tea. Well, I’m not one for sweet tea (those Northern roots go deep), so I ordered the Thai ice tea. Let’s just say it makes Southern sweet tea seem positively bitter in comparison. It’s orange in color, thickened with either condensed milk or cream, and spiced (cinnamon? allspice?) I guess I understand the pairing with hot foods, but really, I prefer a Singha beer…live and learn. There are quite a few veggie offerings, as most menu items offer a tofu version.
Meat Eater: Ginger is a welcome addition to the Nashville Thai food options. We paid $41 with tax and tip for one dinner and $40 with tax and tip on another visit.