Category Archives: Thai

Westgate Thai

Cuisine: Thai

3201 Sullivant Ave., Columbus OH
Open 10am – 8pm, daily except Tuesday.

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Thai restaurants have been found in and around Columbus for quite some time, but… ummm, how should we put this… unadulterated Thai has been thin on the ground with Bangkok as the only game in town. But with the recent opening of Erawan, and now Westgate Thai, the full flavors of Thailand are steadily working their way into the city’s consciousness.

Westgate Thai operates out of the Westgate Import Market, and occupies the kitchen and dining area that previously hosted the lovably improbable ‘Lindo Mexican/Cambodian restaurant’ (the signage for Lindo is still up, if you find it you’ve found Westgate). Accommodations are basic, with perhaps 16 seats in total, but service is consistently kind and thorough.

The entirety of the staff consists of a husband and wife duo, with the wife in the kitchen and the husband manning the front of house. Given the small size of the operation, this has been more than adequate, and wait times have been entirely acceptable.

Pad Phrik King

The food’s been great. From the yum woon sen to the pad phrik khing to the nice selection of curries, we haven’t found a bad pick in the bunch… and we’ve probably eaten more than half of the menu. They’ll adjust for your taste in spicy heat, which is to say that if you like it truly hot they’ll be happy to take that as a challenge.

If, among the fairly wide selection available, you’re looking for a place to start, I’d recommend the khao kaphrao khai dao (my preference is with pork) – a potent shot of Thai basil mingling with garlicky porky goodness, served with an egg that’s been fried until crispy around the edges (but still maintains a runny yolk) and rice. Try it as the Thais tend to do, by constructing bites with pork, egg, and rice all on one spoonful (yes, Thais mostly use a fork and spoon at the table).

Yum Woon Sen

Prices are notably wallet-friendly – apps start at $.50, and entrees are generally between $5.99 and $6.99. Entrees are discounted by $1.00 for lunch business. We had a group of 5 eat to contentment and beyond, and walked out with leftovers on a $32.00 bill. A few vegetarian and pescetarian options are available.

We’d be remiss in neglecting to mention that Westgate Import Market itself is a worthwhile destination. Southeast Asian staples and curiosities make for great browsing (we rarely leave without buying something), and the family that runs it is friendly and welcoming in the extreme. They offer a variety of prepared foods near the checkout – we’ve particularly enjoyed the mildly sweet sticky rice desserts packed in lengths of bamboo.

Erawan Thai

Cuisine: Thai

3859 Refugee Rd.
Open: 7 days/wk, 11am – 9pm

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With a name like ‘Erawan’, it has to be good. Or so went our thinking – Erawan is the name of a minor shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, and to saddle a restaurant with what amounts to a near-unpronounceable name for english speakers that relates to an almost unknown location to anyone outside of Thailand is to show a genuine fidelity to origin. We couldn’t help but expect that that would manifest itself in the food.

This sense was confirmed when our thoroughly accommodating and knowledgeable server suggested that our meals would be best accompanied by sticky rice – a glutinous rice that is indeed sticky, with larger grains and a slightly nuttier flavor. Thais, particularly in the northern region of Isaan, use it much like Ethiopians use injera bread – in lieu of utensils, they grab a ball of it and use it to pinch morsels from dishes.  You don’t see this option very often around here.

The Isaan influence makes sense – Erawan is run by a Thai and a Lao, and Lao cooking is often very similar to Isaan style cuisine. And, as Laos is also influenced by neighboring Vietnam, you’ll also find pho here (which, if Yelp reviews are anything to go by, is supposed to be quite good).

But, we came for Thai, and Thai is what we had. Here’s how it went down:

First we tried the beef jerky appetizer. We’ve eaten this at Thai restaurants on numerous occasions previously, been a bit confused by the name (it doesn’t seem like jerky!), and finally on this visit got some answers from our server: it’s a marinated beef that has been left to rest and drain for around 3 hours and then deep-fried. So, not jerky as we know it, and certainly not health food, but absolutely delicious with a bit of sweetness, strong lemongrass notes, a slight crispness, and an overt beefy flavor. It was gone in no time flat.

Next came the papaya salad with salty crab. We asked for maximum spicy heat (which is the norm for this dish), and we got it. We also got crunchy shredded green papaya in a citrusy sauce with deep fish sauce flavor, studded with peanuts, garlic, bits of crab, and intimidatingly large flecks of chili. We enjoyed it very much, were impressed by the authenticity, and I’ll just end this sentence by observing that the fish sauce is both potent in aroma and flavor and therefore may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But make no mistake, you’re getting the real deal here.

The yum nuea arrived next. Essentially a cold beef salad with a sauce similar to the papaya salad, it demonstrated the wide range of flavors – sweet, salty, and sour – that the dish is known for. Unfortunately, the beef itself was surprisingly gristly. Perhaps a bit too authentic in that respect?

As we dug into the pad gar pow, the first person to speak simply said, “oh, yeah.” At Erawan the choice of protein is yours, and we ordered ours with ground pork, which was completed with plenty of sweet basil, chili, and garlic sauce. Again, the execution was dead-on, and thoroughly enjoyed.  This is one of the big flavored Thai dishes that is easily accessible even in its most unadulterated form.

Finally, we tried the pad see ew, which was… incongruously odd, both for better and worse. On the plus side, it had a deeply meaty flavor that, while distinctly unlike any other pad see ew we’ve tried, was nonetheless roundly enjoyed on its own merits. On the down side, the noodles were overcooked and yet lacked the dish’s signature ‘essence of pan’ (the sootiness that comes from residual bits of prior dishes).

But never mind that last dish. We’re excited about this place, and can’t wait to try more. As Erawan has just recently opened, the occasional misstep is understandable. Prices were very reasonable, with apps ranging from $3.25 – $7.00, and meals from $7.00 – $13.00 (with most under $10.00). Service was exceptional.


Cuisine: Thai
3277 Refugee Road
(614) 231-8787

Click here to map it!

Thais love food. A lot.

When amongst a group of Thais who find themselves in Columbus, try asking about their favorite place for (insert non-Thai Asian dish here). Don’t be surprised if this spurs a passionate 20 minute discussion of the pros and cons of any of a variety of options.

Now, try this – ask about their favorite place to go when they’re homesick.  Odds are, discussion will begin and end with a single word: Bangkok.

This is not surprising, since Bangkok (the restaurant) is nothing less than a slice of Bangkok (the city), that’s been picked up and plonked down on Refugee Rd. in our fair city.  A place where decor is reserved for expressions of respect for Buddha, king, and country, and service is leisurely and charming… Bangkok is pure Thai through and through.

This, of course, extends to the menu offering.  While Bangkok carries an abbreviated menu of Chinese-American dishes, to order one is, at least in my opinion, to entirely miss the point.  Who orders Tex-Mex in Rome?

Certainly not Warren Taylor*, owner of Snowville Creamery, who we (purely by chance) ran into during our visit.  As soon as the wait staff saw him, a series of nods back and forth indicated that he’d be having ‘the usual’.

In his case, this meant pad hoi (mussels in red sauce) and pad puck boong (watercress in a garlic sauce).  When this arrived, along with our pork pad ka pow (ground pork with basil and garlic) and pad thai, Warren suggested eating ‘family style’.

Our kind of guy, that Warren.

I tried the pad hoi first.  This was something special – a generous portion of some of the plumpest mussels I’ve ever seen, served with vegetables in a red sauce.  The red sauce was fascinating – almost everyone at the table thought tasted like a Thai interpretation of a tomatoey marinara sauce that had been pureed.  Delighted but slightly confused, we asked the waitress about this. Turns out, we were comically off – the red color came from a mild chili paste (no tomatoes whatsoever). Fish sauce, garlic, and basil rounded it out.  A dish worth plotting a return trip around.

pad ka pow (front) and pad hoi (back)

The pad ka pow was also very well received.  The ground pork hit the sweet spot between too lean and too fatty, and the sweet basil, garlic, and chiles asserted themselves in no uncertain terms.  A great dish that effortlessly balances big flavors, pad ka pow is often eaten by Thais with kai dao (a fried egg).

The pad thai – I almost hesitate to even mention it.  Not because it wasn’t good (it absolutely was), but because people’s opinions about it are almost as divergent as their take on, say, pizza.  Suffice it to say that everyone at our table enjoyed it, with several suggesting it was their favorite.

Beyond what we tried, Bangkok’s Thai selection is substantial – from yum nuea to tom yum to curries, they hit all of the high points and then some. They also have a reasonable selection of vegetable dishes, though strict vegetarians may want to inquire about their use of fish sauce.

Regrettably, the majority of the photos from the evening were lost to faulty technology.  Guess we’ll just have to go back sometime soon (such a hardship!).

*Warren Taylor, aside from being a hell of an interesting character, oversees the production of a product is perhaps worthy of an alt.eats post of its own. For the time being, though, if you haven’t tried Snowville’s milk or cream I highly recommend you do.