Downtown Orlando's central business district now has three Thai restaurants, and two are within a block of each other.
Mai Thai recently took over the space at 22 E. Pine St. vacated when Artisan’s Table moved to Church Street. That puts it just a hop, skip and a tom kha gai away from Napasorn, at 56 E. Pine and close to Thai Cafe on Magnolia Avenue.
Mai Thai wants to be known as an Asian fusion restaurant, though like everything else in life wanting it doesn’t make it so. About the only thing fusionesque on the menu is the Duck Tacos, but I’ll come back to those in a moment.
MT apparently also wants to be both a restaurant and a nightclub. Apparently, after dinner service the tables and chairs are moved out of the dining room to clear way for a dance floor. That might make one wonder how serious a restaurant it wants to be, fusion or otherwise.
The Krab Rangoon my lunch companion and I shared as an appetizer didn’t settle the argument. Instead of the usual little purse shapes most Rangoon take on, Mai Thai’s more resembled empanadas – another fusion attempt, perhaps? That would have been fine if there had been anything about the flavor or texture that might be considered redeeming. I couldn’t say there was actual krab mixed in the with the cream cheese, but I can say they were all served a tepid temp.
The salad and spring roll served with the entrees weren’t much to rave about, either. But Thai salads – usually iceberg lettuce and splotch of peanut dressing, as it was here – are rarely rave worthy. The spring roll was hard and slightly greasy.
But things were much better with the Red Curry with beef that I ordered as my entree. Although the meat was fairly scarce amid the red bell peppers, carrots and snow peas, the curry was full flavored and well spiced. Indeed, I ordered the dish prepared medium spicy and found it plenty hot. The bowl of rice that accompanied was sufficiently fluffy. (How nice it would have been if my server had offered some to go along with my leftovers.)
My companion had those Duck Tacos and I must say they were pretty tasty. Instead of tortillas, the moist meat was pressed in roti bread, with chopped lettuce, cucumbers and bean sprouts. The roti, grilled and buttery, leant some substance.
The decor is probably more suited to nighttime viewing. A suspended ceiling has a starlight pattern, and the wall separating the dining area from the kitchen features several tubular glassed-in water panels in blue lighting. The restaurant’s name aflame in red neon dominates one wall.
Servers could use some basic training.
There’s certainly enough room in downtown Orlando for three – or more – Thai restaurants. I don’t think we need another nightclub. Mai Thai would do well to focus on its food and bring the rest of its dishes up to the level of the curry and duck tacos.
Mai Thai is at 22 E. Pine St., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-286-2050.