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Haute Spot: Not Just for Take-Out

Archi’s Thai Bistro

By Aly Wagonseller

Aside from power lunching, I’ve traditionally associated Thai cuisine with take-out cartons and movie night.  It could be that, for the most part, the décor at truly exceptional neighborhood Thai restaurants is rarely date night appropriate. Truthfully, a more likely explanation is my complete inability to stop eating this country’s wonderfully flavorful (and spicy) concoctions. An addiction that inevitably results in the dreaded button pop…not something I’d proudly like to display in public. Still, Archi’s Thai Bistro, located at 6345 So. Rainbow, has given me reason to rethink my traditional homeward bound Thai-fest, providing an attractive and comfy place to dine and a friendly staff that’s happy to wrap up the leftovers…even if they’re destined to be devoured on the car ride home.

More upscale than most neighborhood restaurants, Archi’s is a nice sized space that affords a calm, casual and somewhat private dining experience devoid of kitchen clatter or annoying traffic from the take-out crowd.  With wood-style floors, a neutral, earth-toned color palette and antique armoires and cabinets, the atmosphere is anything but Asian influenced. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but merely surprising considering the authenticity of the Archi family’s cuisine.  Zagat and Michelin rated, you’ll be hard pressed to find better Thai fare in the city.

This stuff is spicy, so it’s up to you to order the spice level of your liking, in this case from one to ten. This translates as follows:  Do NOT order every dish on the top of your spice tolerance level, even if you’re competing for top-spice bragging rights over your dining companion. Not only will you miss out on the many subtle, yet complex flavors indicative of this cuisine, but you’ll inevitably pay later. That being said, the rating system at Archi’s was a bit inconsistent, making it tough to figure out just what the spice intensity was on any given dish we ordered. Pad Thai, ordered at a level 4, was relatively mild, while the Papaya Salad, ordered at a level two, was bordering on noxious. I’m not complaining, as the food was impeccable, I’m just suggesting that you ask your server for his expertise in the matter, considering some ingredients take on spice more aggressively than do others.

We started with the Moo Dadd Deaw (5.95), Tom Yum (6.95) and Papaya Salad (6.95). The Moo’s (a.k.a. Thai sticks) were yummy, caramelized meat morsels served with a tangy hot and sour sauce.  The ample bowl of Tom Yum could have easily been a meal in itself.  They certainly didn’t skimp on the tender chicken and fresh mushrooms in this tart and fiery broth-based soup–a true bargain on any menu. And the Papaya Salad? Let’s just say this was the first time I’ve had this crunchy, tangy and refreshing salad filled with green papaya matchsticks, crushed peanuts and crunchy green beans all bathed in a dry shrimp, spicy lime dressing.  After getting over the confusion of not recognizing papaya that wasn’t orange (hey, I said it was the first time I’d tried this), this was one of my favorite dishes, although next time I’ll order it spice free, a great way to cleanse the palate between other, spiced-up selections.

Entrees include a number of curry, noodle, rice and Thai specialty items. We chose the Chicken Pad Thai (6.95), Spicy Basil Fried Rice with Shrimp (8.95), Panang Curry (6.95), and Pad Kapow (6.95).  All entrees were served in rather ample, family style portions, with an impressive amount of meat and exceptionally fresh vegetables that still had their snap. Faves for me included the Panang Curry, a delicate, yet complex coconut milk-based version that whispered (not roared) an earthy spiciness; a humble Pad Kapow which transformed simple hamburger meat into a savory, sweet and spicy comfort food that paired very well with the nutty, sticky rice served alongside; and the Spicy Basil Rice, made with large, tender and perfectly cooked shrimp, and spiked with impossibly crisp veggies and fried, spicy basil leaves–so delish.

Eating Thai food in an actual restaurant has its drawbacks, considering you can’t eat ‘til you drop if you’re to avoid the “roll of shame” out the doorway. But Archi’s makes a good case to get off the couch and savor some truly fabulous Thai cuisine in an upscale, yet decidedly casual eatery in the neighborhood.  I’ll just have to keep a fork in the car for the ride home.


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