Smart Kitchen doesn’t currently have an existing Asian Specialty section, though we will be filming one shortly with a prominent mystery chef as instructor. Not having an Asian Specialty in the curriculum does not mean we don’t appreciate good Asian food or good Thai Food. We appreciate good food period and have found few Asian places in the Valley of the Sun to knock our “Tabi” sandal socks off.
That’s why we were excited to go with Mike W., our web designer, to a place he likes called Thai Chili on Baseline at the Gilbert/Mesa border in the Phoenix metro area. Mike is such a fan that his frequent visits have earned him the title of mayor of Thai Chili on Four Square.
After a design session, SK Chef, Mike and I piled into Mike’s jeep and headed the few short blocks to Thai Chili, From the parking lot it looks like any other unobtrusive family place in a strip mall. The exterior barely hints at the fact that Jean Thawee, a talented female chef, who learned her art at her mother’s knee, runs the kitchen. With Mike as our expert guide, we knew better and were anticipating the heat. And we were not disappointed. The Lunch Special had some sexy choices and seemed like a good value.
SK Chef and Mike took the more exotic road and chose the Drunken Noodles and the Crispy Chicken with Spicy Plumb Sauce respectively.
For me, I like to test out a new place, sometimes, on the classics and ordered a Thai Standard: Chicken Pad Thai, which had the added benefit of containing peanuts.*
While we waited, Mike wound us up with his hit or miss experience with the heat index at Thai Chili. When ordering you have the opportunity to dial in your own amount of heat on a scale of 1-10. Unsurprisingly, for a something as subjective as taste and for a plant that likes to cross pollinate as much as peppers do, sometimes a mild sounding “1” would scorch and a flaming “9” would underwhelm. Liking the flavor more than the heat, I’d punted and ordered my Pad Thai with a cowardly “6.”
When the meal arrived I was glad that I did. Though I have owned a Mexican place and survived a few seasons of the “eat this pepper” game with the crew, I found my level “6” a scooch past perfect but the little bit of extra heat did not prevent me from cleaning my plate while mopping my brow and partaking of the ice water. SK Chef stands by his order of Drunken Noodles as does Mike W. with his Crispy Chicken.
I won’t drive all the way to the Mesa/Gilbert border for a bowl of Thai Chili’s Pad Thai, but I will advocate for it if we are in a meeting nearby again. If you like authentic Thai food, and are having a hard time finding it in the valley, I’d give it a try.
*My daughter is allergic to peanuts, so we have empathetically banned them at home, which is tough if you’re as big a fan of the little goobers as I am.