Thai Spirit’s soups offer a booster shot of feel-better food
By Dan O'Heron 01/23/2013
My handkerchief was wet with grief caused by a bad cold. But stuck in the Glendale Galleria at lunchtime, I turned up my red nose at the thought of finding any Jewish mother’s chicken soup in a food court.
Hastily, with a pal in tow, I scuttled away to Eagle Rock’s Thai Spirit Restaurant for some therapeutic Thai soup that is next of kin to a Jewish’s mother’s soup, but not a poor relation.
In previous visits here, when healthy and not hurting, my usual order was po tak fisherman’s soup. It was comforting and filling.
Something on the order of a French bouillabaisse, though not ladled over a chunk of bread or Italian cioppino and not driven by tomatoes, the spicier po tak broth was bobbing with what the menu identified as shrimp, crab, squid, mussels, white fish, scallops and straw mushrooms (so named because they are grown on straw from a paddy).
Ginger, onion, lime juice and galanga (a snapping, ginger-flavored rootstock) combined to create its distinctive and bracing flavors.
But not hungry on this day, feeling that debugging would require something peppery but lighter, I ordered Tom Yum, a lemongrass soup with broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and other secret morsels — one of which, I suspect, is Chinese cabbage — swimming in a reddened chili and lime juice broth.
After a few sips, sniffling slowed, I felt better. And, at $4.95 for a so-called small bowl, which was much bigger than a cup, my friend would not have to co-pay for my treatment.
He was relishing the peanut oil dressing on a crispy noodle salad, along with a broccoli/carrot beef platter, the meat of which he described as “surprisingly tender.”
I wanted to report in painstaking detail how the chefs created such dishes and other delights I’ve had in the past. But no manager was around, and our waitress indicated that the chefs were unavailable for conversation.
In keeping with Thai traditions, these chefs make judicious use of herbs and spices — the velvety kind to soothe and the sharp ones to spank. But to keep pace with the variations of a moderately priced, giant 150-item menu, including nearly a score of combination lunch specials for $6.95, they combine and recombine seasonings to nuance dishes that yield contrasting tastes: mild, mellow, sweet, sour, bitter, tart and salty
In earlier trips to the restaurant with three or four other guests, we shared most of the seasonings in one meal.
Eight steamed chicken dumplings came with sweet soy sauce. There was yellow bean sauce on slices of fresh ginger, sautéed with black mushrooms, and a dried chili and spicy sauce on kung pao chicken. Bell peppers and pork came with oyster sauce. Signature Thai “chicken on fire” was marinated in garlic, black pepper and cilantro, and shrimp in a basket came with light plum sauce. “Lad Na,” pan-fried, wide-bodied rice noodles with beef, was drenched in creamy gravy.
I’m looking forward to tasting the rice powder lime dressing on a $9.95 roast duck salad, the delicate red panang curry sauce on an $11.95 salmon steak, and the garlic ginger sauce on a $12.95 deep-fried whole trout.
To make peace with any of the spicy aftertastes, desserts include green tea ice cream ($2.95), house-made coconut ice cream ($2.95) and fried banana ($4.95). But for a special, seasonal-only climax, now is the time for mango sticky sweet rice ($6.95).
While the menu is huge, the restaurant is not. The exterior of the building looks as though you’d be going into a crannied nook. But the room’s designer has made wise use of available space: it accommodates some 50 guests. The seating includes five semi-circle padded banquettes that are intimately set in natural wood frames. These are ideal for couples, but are roomy enough to seat four without diners bumping elbows.
Added to the ambience is a giant mural that depicts village life in Thailand. If you take the time to check it out carefully, you’ll come across a naughty amusement.
From 11 .a.m. to 10 p.m., the food is good. But if you are a guest who comes in with a cold, it’s great. n
2617 Colorado Blvd.,
Super Sunday Filet Mignon
Though it’s not a sports bar, per se, you may want to pull up a chair on Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 3 at Big Daddy’s Fire Grill’s new second Pasadena location (147 W. California Blvd., Orangewood Plaza, 626/356-4900).
Here, positioned to view the game on either two 90-inch HD TVs, or four 80-inch HD sets, one can feast on a sandwich loaded with seven ounces of filet mignon for only $10.95. For others, plump chicken wings and pitchers of beer should make the day. All meat items, including hamburgers, hot dogs and sausages, are smoked on an oak wood fire grill.