Restaurant Review #243: Sa La Thai (Lancaster, PA)

After being so impressed by the variety of culture in Lancaster City on our last trip, we wanted to venture more into what the area has to offer. Originally, Justin and I planned on trying a Trinidadian restaurant, but it was a Monday and they were closed. We continued walking around and ended up in front of Sa La Thai. They advertised three course meals starting at $9.95—cannot go wrong with that. It was a little after noon and the place was empty save for one table, and deathly quiet. There was a large main dining room and two smaller ones. We were seated to the side and promptly brought over menus.

The lunch specials included a soup, appetizer, and main course. For chicken, pork, vegetable, tofu, and beef dishes, the price was $9.95. An extra $3 would get you shrimp. There were seven soups, nine appetizers, and over 20 entree options to choose from. This is one of the largest samplings I have ever seen for a lunch special. Justin and I both chose the coconut soup (his with chicken, mine with vegetables and tofu). For appetizers, we both had dumplings: mine steamed with chicken, his fried with pork.

The soup was delightful. The broth was creamy from the coconut milk used but light enough that it was not too filling. There was a fragrance emanating from the steam rising from the bowl. There is nothing worse than lukewarm soup, and this was far from that. The appetizers were tiny but just enough: two dumplings for me, two for him. I thought my dumplings were rather generic, but his wontons were crispy and flavorful.

I felt like something spicy and ordered the Massaman Curry with chicken. I asked the waitress about spice levels, and she told me an in-depth profile of their heat scale, which like my favorite Kunya Siam’s, ranges from one to four stars, the latter being the hottest. Normally, I would go all the way but if her four-star was anything like Kunya’s, I did not feel like being at death’s door for an hour. I chose three-star, which ended up being more than adequate. When my plate arrived, I was satisfied by the appearance. This was a good portion for lunch. The rice was perfectly cooked. Although the chicken ended up being overcooked, I enjoyed the meal overall. At first, the spice did not seem like much and I was disappointed, but it quickly caught up to me. The meal in general grew on me as I finished it. By the end, I was sweating and had a runny nose, meaning the curry did its job. The sauce was thick, which I prefer to looser broth-like curries. The potatoes were tender, unlike this travesty at Pru Thai.

Justin ordered the Thai Ginger Chicken which was stir-fried with vegetables, ginger, and soy sauce. He enjoyed it but said it lacked flavor. I gave it a try and agreed: there was not anything wrong with it, but considering there was “ginger” in the title, it failed to deliver the intense flavor we were expecting.

Would I go back to Sa La Thai? As a visitor three or four times a year to Lancaster, maybe. Maybe not. There are so many restaurants in the city and county as a whole (TripAdvisor lists over 450) that sometimes you only have one chanceae to nail it and make a regular out of someone. That being said, I am going to give them a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars for the value and creativity of their lunch menu, the server’s knowledge and attentiveness, the freshness of ingredients, and that their spicy food did indeed make me sweat. That’s an accomplishment.

Sa La Thai is located on 337 North Queen Street in Lancaster, PA.

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