I was chatting with someone the other day about Thai restaurants and how they’ve changed over the years, mainly for the better. There was a time when Orlando had precious few Thai restaurants. Today, they are arguably the most prevalent of all Asian cuisines. Of course, with a greater inventory comes a leveling phenomenon, the tendancy for some of those restaurants to be the middle ground known as average.
As we chatted, the thought of a little place on Edgewater Drive, just north of Lee Road, occurred to both of us. It was about as tiny as a restaurant could be, and really just a few tables set up within a market that specialized in Asian food products. We agreed that it was one of the early favorite Thais, and one with an overly simplistic name. So simplistic that we couldn’t remember what it was. Thai Restaurant, or something like that, I said.
As happenstance would have it, that same day I found myself not far that area and I decided to stop in for lunch. Actually, its name is Thai Cuisine Restaurant, and when I walked in I was surprised at how big it had gotten. The market is gone, and the restaurant has expanded to a space nearby. When I mentioned to the young man who was showing me to my table that I hadn’t been in since they had expanded, he just looked at me and said, as expressionlessly as possible, “You haven’t been here in a long time.”
Maybe it was the relative uniqueness of those early days, or the thrill of finding good food in an odd location. But the restaurant doesn’t seem to have the same high quality. My lunch was good, but it wasn’t drive-to-the-other-side-of-town-to-get-it good.
I started with the tom kha with chicken, which featured pungent kiffir lime leaves and galangal in a rich coconut-flavored broth. For my entree I had the panang with beef, a just-spicy-enough curry with bell peppers and carrots and a touch of coconut milk. It was served with fluffy jasmine rice. (Brown rice is available for an additional $1.)
The soup and entree combo at lunch was $11.95, which seemed a bit dear, but maybe I’m still thinking in 2001 terms. Also, there wasn’t much warmth from the serving staff. All very perfunctory.
So now Thai Cuisine Restaurant truly is as generic as its name.
Thai Cuisine Restaurant is at 5325 Edgewater Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to thaicuisineorlando.com. The phone number is 407-292-9474.