Thai Cuisine 

Perhaps I'm a marketing stooge, but packaging matters to me. Thai Cuisine on Overland has an unimaginitive name and a less-than-inspiring location. Looking at its generic sign on its generic building, I didn't expect much from the place, and I suspect others may have made this hasty judgment. Happily, I was very wrong.

Thai Cuisine bills itself as "affordable, casual, elegant," and once through the door of the restaurant, the "elegant" becomes immediately apparent. I was half expecting one of those no-frills, cafeteria-looking interiors—all white walls and utility. Not so. I was confronted with rich red wallpaper, upholstered booths, carved tables and chairs and decorative flourishes everywhere. Obviously the proprietors took some pride in attempting to create an environment.

Thai Cuisine boasts a pretty extensive menu, from soup to salad to entrees to appetizers, as well an assortment of weekday lunch specials. Choosing was difficult, but I finally settled on the Mongolian beef entree and an appetizer of honey chicken satay.

The satay, four strips of boneless chicken on bamboo skewers, was served with an eye-pleasing hint of char and a light pepper seed-flecked red sauce for dipping, as well as a thing called "cucumber salad" (which was about the size of the sauce cup and tasted like cucumbers in vinegar). I tried the chicken satay plain first, then dipped in the red sauce—a sweet and pleasantly warm flavor—and then, just for fun, dipped the chicken in the cucumber salad, too. All three ways were pretty tasty, but the chicken was delicious when eaten as intended—dipped in the spicy red sauce. (Incidentally, that sauce was really good on the white rice, too.)

Then it was on to the Mongolian beef. I'm kind of a connoisseur of this dish. I order it frequently and I'm picky about what I get. When I saw the food on the plate, I was skeptical. First, it wasn't those crispy slivers of beef I've come to expect from a serving of the stuff--the beef looked more like medallions than slices. Second, it had green and red peppers in it, strong flavors in their own right that vastly change the character of a dish. But keeping an open mind, I mixed up a bit of the fragrant sauce with a bite of beef, pepper and the requisite crispy noodles and took my first bite. It tasted very little like the Mongolian beef I'm used to, but so what? The sauce was light and flavorful, the beef tender and the overall taste was delicious. (My husband pronounced the same verdict when he dealt with the leftovers.)

Packaging is often misleading, and I'm happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed my Thai cuisine from Thai Cuisine.

—Sara Beitia pulverizes peanuts in her coffee grinder.

Thai Cuisine: 6777 Overland Rd., 658-0516. Mon.-Thu.: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun.: 12-9:30 p.m.

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