Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mango Thai

Visited on Friday, December 11th with Bill and Kim

Mango Thai, denied
(Taken in September. It looks the same now, except dark, with snow, and no leaves on the trees)

Erin's Review
I can barely remember how this dinner came to be - it was some kind of collaboration between Ben and Bill that came out of meeting at our company party or something...? I have no idea, but I was glad because I've been wanting to try Mango Thai since missing out back in September when we tried with our neighbors, who have since been and RAVED about it.

I have to admit, I was a LITTLE nervous to go out to eat with Bill after reading his many scathing reviews of restaurants especially since we chose the place. Thankfully, it seemed to pass muster for him, based on his review ;) Too bad it takes us over a week to post anything, unlike him who got his review up the next day (I blame Ben).

menu

I think I have gotten a lot pickier about restaurant service lately (like in the past 7 months or so) because there were a few things that really bugged me here - first, we sat down and never got menus or waters until I specifically asked for water later. The server had walked by our table several times too, and already brought Ben and Bill their pint glasses, so he knew we were there. That is just unacceptable. Second, after we ordered our appetizers, we had to ask to order our main dishes - after the appetizers had come, been eaten, and the plates were cleared. Our server seemed to be a nice guy, but kind of a space cadet. Third, as is normally my pet peeve in restaurants, KEEP THE WATER COMING. They were pretty slow about this, and especially at a Thai place where food is spicy (for a normal non-Bill person), this is a necessity. If it's too much work to fill the glasses by hand, bring out a pitcher for the table.

Inside Mango Thai

Now that those issues are out of my system, the rest of our experience here was really enjoyable. I loved the space - it felt very cozy, and I definitely want to sit in one of the tables near the entryway with cutouts for feet at some point. The mango spring rolls we got as an appetizer were very good - I did taste the mango, mostly because mine fell apart so I ate pieces of some pieces of mango by itself :)

Low tables with cutouts for feet

I had been coming down with a slight cold so was in the mood for soup - I got the Tom Kha Chicken Coconut soup, with no spice (there were 3 chilis next to it on the menu, but the server said they could make it not spicy for me). I've had this soup before, when my brother-in-law made it for Christmas last year. This was a HUGE portion - it came out in an enormous metal bowl with a flame to keep it hot - very nice presentation! It was way too much for me - I can never really gorge myself on soup. It was delicious though - a wonderful mix of flavors, and Ben enjoyed it again for lunch the next day. I'd definitely recommend getting this soup as a starter for the table - I'll bet you could easily get 4 small bowls out of it.

Tom Kha Chicken Coconut Soup

Tom Kha Chicken Coconut Soup

The only fiasco of the evening came when the server was going to pick up my soup to pack it up, and didn't also grab the plate it was on, which then fell back to the table, knocked over a water glass, spilled water on my camera and another woman's coat and broke. Yikes! In such a small space, it definitely caused a commotion. Obviously it was just an accident and they were very concerned about my camera, which was fine. They handled it well and got everything cleaned up quickly.

I will definitely return to Mango Thai - it is a beautiful place with delicious food. Yes, there were some service issues, but that was likely an individual situation and not indicative of the overall service at the restaurant.

Ben's Review
After trying and failing to go to Mango Thai with our neighbors over the summer (no reservations) we made plans to go with Bill and his wife a couple weeks ago, this time with reservations. Since our failed attempt, our neighbors also went to Mango Thai and reported back that the food was great and it was also a BYOB place. In preparation for this Bill and I met up downtown and went to Haskells to get several bottles of beer to share during our meal.

The first thing that you notice when walking in the door is how small this place is - even smaller than Blue Door Pub. I bet they have capacity for about 25 customers at any given time. This is why reservations are a necessity, otherwise you'll have a long wait on your hands. Bill and his wife had gotten there before us and were already seated. We were luckily seated at one of the normal tables with incredibly comfortable chairs, the amount of cushion for your ass is awesome :) Due to the small size you inevitably have to sit close to the tables next to you, not ideal but just something you have to deal with.

I felt a little self conscious about bringing in a medium sized cooler with our beers while everyone looked at me, but I quickly stashed the cooler under the table and put Bill in charge of doling out the beers when we needed refills. It was a struggle to keep up with Bill on the beer front, he was always cracking the next bottle when I still had half a pint left!

BYOB

We ordered the mango spring rolls as an appetizer and they tasted good, but I could barely taste any mango in them. The presentation was gorgeous, as was the presentation of all the food we had.

Spring rolls

To appease Scott ("all you ever get at Thai places is pad thai") I got the pad kee mow which is still a noodle based dish, but it doesn't have egg or peanuts, instead it's got garlic, chili and also came with a side of rice. I wasn't used to having rice mixed in with a noodle dish, but it tasted great and seemed to go together nicely. The portions at Mango Thai are smaller than a typical Thai place, which just means there aren't leftovers for lunch the next day and you still go home completely stuffed.

Rice

Pad Kee Mow

Bill has taken to calling me the "spice pussy" because of my perceived lack of tolerance for ultra spicy food like him. Even still, at the "medium" level of heat I had to add more red pepper to my dish to make it hot enough, even after the server claimed they made their food hotter than most Thai restaurants (btw, what Thai place DOESN'T say that??). Having heard of how Bill orders his Thai, "as hot as you can make it", I was interested to see if he was for real, and he was. He got it as hot as they could make it and still had to dump about a cup of some sort of chili paste into his dish to make it hot enough for him. The server was shocked. He had never seen them use as much spice as they did in his meal, and he STILL added more :) Needless to say, I think Bill was proud of himself.

We hung out for a bit after finishing as we had bought four 22oz bottles of beer and I had a ways to go on my last pint. All of our beers were great except the last one, the Rogue Santa's Private Reserve, it was drinkable but a little fruity as I recall. Between all the food and the heavy beers I was full to the point of pain. We had a great time hanging out with Bill and his wife, and you can never go wrong with Thai food, as far as I'm concerned.

BYOB
  • Service: Our server was OK. He overstated the spiciness level of the food, but a nice guy.
  • Food: My pad kee mow was delicious and the spring rolls were good.
  • Drinks: No alcohol, but you can bring your own, which is awesome. You can drink exactly what you want and pay liquor store prices for it, perfect.
  • Ambiance: It was a small place so you have to be OK with ceding some of your personal space, but it was a fun place to be at on a Friday night.
  • Price: The prices are great, entrees in the $10-$15 range. The appetizers are overpriced by comparison, ranging from $6-$9 for much less food.
  • Convenience: Mango Thai is on Selby, around the corner from Muddy Pig. There is only on-street parking which can be bad in that area but we managed to get a spot that was pretty close. I think there are several bus lines that go down Selby as well.
Deets
Mango Thai
610 Selby Ave
St. Paul

4 comments:

Bill Roehl said...

Erin, I forgot all about the menus/water thing but you're right, that was annoying. I was less annoyed about having to ask to order the entree as I thought they were being incredibly nice and not trying to turn over tables quickly even with a small restaurant.

Ben, if a spice pussy can handle the "heat" it's definitely not a place for the chiliheads. In fact, while the food tasted great, I'll be sure to bring my own spice tray next time ;-)

Thanks for having dinner w/us, we had a blast :)

Ben said...

I LOVE Thai food. This sounds like it's worth checking out. Great review.

Sarah said...

i went to mango thai back in october and also had a similar experience with a spacey waiter! other than that though, i agree that the food is great :)

Nate Grahek said...

Sweet you guys made it after all!

I felt weird bringing beer in also - even after getting up and driving down the street to Selby Liquor.

I put the bottles in my coat pocket. Super dorky in hindsight I think us Minnesotans just aren't used to it. I LOVE the cooler idea.

I have to admit I am a huge spice pussy - I got the green curry (which I get at all Thai restaurants)It was the hottest I have ever had, but tasted the best also.

We did get sat in the weird chairs and - they were cool - but really awkward to get out of after just 2 beers.

While the close quarters and required reservations is a little annoying its well worth it - and further evidence that if I ever was crazy enough to own my own restaurant I would keep it small - to keep it busy.

We are super excited for the progressive tonight.
Were inspired and damn hungry after watching Julie and Julia last week. We are throwing caution to the wind and trying this recipe by Julia Childs