Thai IDEA Vegetarian is a brand-new restaurant on Polk. It's adorably tiny, and feels really new and clean. Which it is. Which is nice, considering you'll most likely have to step over a paramedic resuscitating someone's grandma or Nick Nolte's twin eating a pigeon to get inside. We kid -- Tenderloin jokes are the worst!
Anyway, Thai IDEA is cute and shiny, basically what a living room in a Thai Ikea might look like. The bathroom is especially worth a trip, if you're a connoisseur. But we're here to talk about the food, so let's do this!
Everything on Thai IDEA's dinner menu looked amazing to me and my lovely dining companion, so it was hard to narrow it down. The first dish we decided on was the Firecracker Balls ($8.95), which are veggie ahi tuna roll pieces, panko-crusted, and then deep-fried.
The combination of the name and the words "deep fried" sold us. Crunching through the perfect fry, a burst of tangy creaminess delighted us. The spicy chile sauce that adorned the balls kicked the dish to the next level. With that, we will now stop typing the word "balls" and just say that it was a true flavor explosion!
Next up, Massaman Curry with veggie beef ($8.50), which is my absolute favorite Thai curry in all the land, and this one did not disappoint. Smooth and complex, with huge chunks of potatoes and a good amount of roasted peanuts. Heaven! My dining companion said that it was almost like a Thai version of Beef Stroganoff. If I knew how to make that sauce, I'd give up drinking water, because it'd be my new beverage of choice.
We also tried the Panang Avocado Shrimp ($10.95), which was very spicy and filled with giant chunks of fresh avocado. Really unusual, and if you like heat, you'll enjoy. The Pad See-Ew with veggie chicken ($7.95) was a classic take on the popular dish, with wide rice noodles, bite-sized broccoli, and chicken chunks. Delicious chicken chunks!
All of the noodles, rice, and curries at Thai IDEA come with your choice of veggie meat, including shrimp, chicken, or beef. If you're one of those weirdos who doesn't like veggie meats (weirdo!), you can get your orders with tofu or extra veggies. Another great thing about Thai IDEA is that all the dishes are clearly marked vegetarian or vegan, and every single dish has a vegan option. Equality!
While Thai food, in general, can be really accomodating to veg-heads, there's always the fear that fish sauce will pop up in your curry. It's nice to have a place where that's guaranteed not to happen, and it's extremely tasty to boot. Thai IDEA is cute enough to bring a date you're still trying to impress, and laid back enough to hang out late talking with friends. I mean, if they're not busy, because it's hella rude to hold up a table when people are waiting. And if you don't think so, maybe you can ask Jonathan Kauffman
and he can back me up. Another nice thing? Open until 10:30 p.m.! In a city that shuts down before nightfall, it's a welcome surprise.
Looking at the menu to write this review, I'm making a mental list of all the things I still want to try. I'm also starting to drool reading the Massaman Curry description, and completely regret not fighting for the leftovers. Oh well, I think I might go back tonight. Or right now. Bye!
Thai IDEA Vegetarian, 710 Polk, 440-8344. Hours: M-F 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-10:30 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.