8 years ago
|Elaine M. Rowland , a Professional Reviewer, wrote:||
by Elaine M. Rowland, Mountain View Voice (Nov 9, 2007)
For years, Amarin Thai has been one of Mountain View's favorite Thai restaurants. These days, however, it seems to be suffering under the weight of its own reputation. The food is still generally very good and the restaurant attractive, but eating during busy times in the New-York-style, elbow-to-elbow main room, with little to no waiter attention, can feel more like dining in a cafeteria than a restaurant.
For example, recently I arrived with a friend -- early enough to avoid the noon crush on Castro Street -- and was warmly greeted and seated. Soon after the waitress took our order, the trickle of customers swelled to a mass of diners on all sides, and we never saw our waitress again.
Our food arrived at different times via different people, and no one asked how we were doing. The wait staff was obviously hustling to keep up, and it was extremely difficult to catch anyone's eye for dessert, or a replacement utensil. Then the check showed up on the table: buh-bye.
Not everybody cares about these things, though, and I'm sure regular diners who know the drill simply enjoy their tasty curries and decently priced lunch specials in the $7-$9 range without being bothered by intrusive waiters. There's something to be said for that, as long as it's expected.
Amarin is also praised for its vegetarian foods. Rice dishes on the regular menu can be prepared vegetarian, but better still, there's a separate vegetarian menu. It offers versions of the main menu dishes as well as some unique ones, like spicy corn cakes (with cucumber salad for $7.95). The cakes, which look like fritters -- crispy outside and moist inside -- weren't overly spicy, and were more interesting than the side order of spring rolls (two for $2.50), which were cabbagey but rescued from blandness by the peppery sauce.
Thinly sliced barbecued meats often end up tough, but Amarin Thai's BBQ honey pork lunch ($7.95) with soup du jour was perfectly tender and not too sweet. It's served with a spicy house sauce or plum sauce, Thai salad, and the stickiest rice I've ever encountered. You could eat this rice with chopsticks in a wind tunnel.
I preferred the Thai fried rice with tender chunks of chicken ($7.95), sampled during my second visit. The difference between this fried rice and Chinese-style lies mainly in the use of several typical Thai ingredients, like fish sauce, chilies and lime.
A popular dish at the restaurant is the chicken yellow curry ($7.95), and rightly so. It's creamy and the coconut flavor stands out, with plenty of tender chicken chunks, carrots and potatoes. Amarin does a fine job with its sauces, and usually the meats are quite good, too. The curry lunch came with the soup of the day as well: a satisfyingly simple broth with a few veggies and some tofu. Though it wasn't as exotic, I felt it held its own against another of Amarin's soups, the hot and sour mushroom, which packed a sour punch and used bold amounts of fresh cilantro.
Unlike some Silicon Valley restaurants that hop at lunch and snooze through dinner, Amarin has plenty of dinner customers. The sparkly decor is date-friendly and attractive, with traditional Thai garments on some staff adding to the exotic flavor. And what's not to like about pulling off your shoes and playing a little footsie under the sunken tables -- one of three dining options along with the main room and outdoor seating.
Still, crowds can dampen the level of service, and for such a popular eatery, Amarin is oddly disorganized about seating. On a recent Friday evening, clueless patrons waited longer than aggressive ones, and a lone hostess hurried back and forth to seat people while patrons crammed the doorway, either waiting or trying to leave.
This is a small annoyance for a party of two with time to kill, and a pain for bigger groups or people with children. But if you love the green curry scallops with eggplant, coconut milk and basil ($13.95) -- and they were fresh and delicious -- then you may put up with it. Try reserving a table.
The beef Mu-Sa-Mun curry ($8.95) with potatoes, carrots, pineapple and coconut, however, was not worth a wait. It looks like a Western beef stew, but unlike stew, the beef here wasn't cooked until tender.
At dinner, drinks were a bit of a mystery. We saw people drinking, but no mention on the menus. We asked for and ordered beers but, again, had to nearly tackle someone to get a refill.
Amarin Thai Cuisine
174 Castro St
Mountain View, California 94041
650-988-9323 | phone
650-966-8309 | fax
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