How many times I passed this restaurant en route to one of my favorite bars which is located practically across the street. How many times I said to myself that I had to try it and see how it compares to my beloved Kunya Siam in Atlantic Highlands. How many times? Well, the wait came to an end yesterday. When you first walk into Red Bank’s Muang Thai, you may be taken aback by the decor. The walls are a bright orange and adorned with native tapestries and decor. The ceilings too have string-like decorations which just might cause you to duck depending on your height. This all contributes to a wonderfully festive and traditional atmosphere, but as I have said several times on this blog (in a variety of situations), “You don’t go to a restaurant to stare at walls”.
Was this stunning atmosphere mere pretentiousness or sign of what was to come? I have been fooled before. We all have. But thankfully, that would not be the case here, as our meal was par excellence from start to finish. The menu is a large one, consisting of what you might see at any other Thai restaurant along with a few items that were quite new to me. While I thought that most of their dinner entrees were a bit pricey, the lunch menu ended up being of remarkable value ($10.95 for chicken/beef/pork/veggies/tofu and $3 more for shrimp or squid). Justin and I put in an appetizer while we browsed the menu. Being suckers for a good curry puff, it was a no brainer. We chose the vegetarian potato/onion version over chicken or beef (Pon Klib on the menu).
I knew it was going to be good as soon as it hit the table. Aside from a glorious aroma, the actual pastry itself was so flaky that it practically fell apart just by looking at it. These were definitely fried to order and not sitting around under a heat lamp. The contents were smoking hot and rich in taste. These soft and fluffy delicacies were accompanied by an acidic vinegar-like dipping sauce with tiny bits of onion and cucumber.
For meals, my go-to at any Thai restaurant is always a curry. However, I wanted to try something new and chose the Chicken and Cashew Nuts. The next time I go back (spoiler alert: there will be a next time), it would be hard to not order this again. The portion was plentiful, with slices of tender chicken tossed with a medley of vegetables including zucchini, onion, scallion, string beans, carrots, and cashews in a glorious “brown sauce”. The menu advertised spicy, and our waiter asked if medium was alright. Normally, I go for something that will make smoke come out of my ears, but not being familiar with their levels, I asked for between mild and spicy. They delivered with a perfect amount of heat. It made me sweat but did not kill me— I shall go higher next time.
Justin ordered a dish that I nearly ended up with, Pad Prig Keang. This is something I get at Kunya’s all the time, and found myself ordering a rendition at Thai Thai in Bethlehem, PA. Well, this would be the third iteration and the third different preparation. Chicken was sauteed with the same vegetables as mine (in addition to eggplant and bell peppers) and covered in a light curry sauce that had a gingery tang. The heat level was similar. Both of our meals came with a salad topped with a delicious peanut dressing that I wanted to lick the plate clean of.
I commend Muang Thai on many things in addition to delivering an all-around outstanding meal: the service was friendly and attentive, they nailed the level of spice I requested, the ingredients were clearly as fresh as can be, and they did not go overboard with the bell peppers—so many times restaurants load up on them to diminish the use of more sought-after components. Neither of us had a single complaint, except to kick ourselves and say, “What took us so long?”
Almost getting carried away with this rating, I had to settle myself down. I am giving a 4 out of 5 stars for now, because usually I like a second visit (or at least dinner) before going higher. Clearly, though, Muang Thai is going to end up at the top echelon of my ratings. It was just that good.
Muang Thai is located at 7 East Front Street in Red Bank, NJ.