Back in June (sheesh, we're almost to August already!), I mentioned that a new Thai Restaurant called Chaba Thai was taking the spot of Gyro N' Kabob Cafe, which in turn took the place of Aria Kabob. The place opened up pretty quickly a couple of weeks ago and since my office is close by, I decided to check them out for lunch.
The place has been given a mild face lift; brightened up a bit, paint job, stool, basic tables and banquet chairs, nothing fancy, but much brighter than the former places that occupied this spot. Overall, very fast casual in appearance.
The young ladies working here seemed quite friendly and after business. I was taking a look at the photos of the various dishes posted on the glass and was quickly shown a menu.
Unfortunately, the lunch menu consisted of typical, you choose the protein and preparation which is the standard for Thai restaurants in San Diego.
I'm sure folks that frequent Thai joints have their "baseline" dishes. One of mine is the deceivingly simple Pad See Ew, a simple stir fried rice noodle dish that is a lot harder to execute than one thinks. For me Pad See Ew determines the cook's skill with the wok and temperature. Achieving the balance of not overcooking the rice noodles and generating "wok hey" with the right proportion of sweet and salty shows experience and aptitude.
So I went with the Pad See Ew with Shrimp. Things started out kind of plus/minus. The salad with lunch is decent, a over-sweet "Thai-inspired" dressing, but the vegetables were fresh. That soup with coconut milk and cabbage was just plain insipid. I've been finding that this soup with lunch thing has lead to having some pretty nasty bowls recently, stuff I just have spoonful and can't finish.
I really don't know what to say....but let me try. With regards to the shrimp, I didn't mind 41-50, which I kind of like in stir-fries, but these were overcooked and rubbery. Too long over not enough heat. There was also a bit of grittiness to them and a flavor that was edging on "off". Standard issue "Calabrese broccoli" was used instead of Chinese broccoli. The noodles were mushy and cooked without enough heat for too long (see the pattern). There wasn't enough savory, nor enough sweet, basically nothing but greasy, mushy, noodles.
This came with chicken wings that had very little flavor and a doughy batter, giving it a real greasy texture. The cream cheese won tons........I won't even delve into that.
This was just kind of sad. I go into meals hoping and wishing for the best and it's always depressing to deal with nice folks who serve food that just seem to miss the mark.
Because of that, I decided to have another lunch at Chaba. Funny thing, I never bothered to turn over the lunch menu here. On that side of the menu is a different world of dishes; grilled pork neck, Thai jerky, and what I ended up ordering, the "Thai E-Sarn Sausage"....Issan Sausage ($5.95).
So this was the roundish "Sai Krok" I've encountered before. What really threw me off was the Japanese Benishoga - pickled ginger that was served with the dish. C'mon...really? I also prefer some cabbage rather than a single leaf of lettuce, but I've had it this way before. The sausage was too mushy for my taste, without enough sour-fermented flavor. It also seemed to be mostly rice. Sadly, this was the best item I've had here......
In a moment of indecision, I also ordered the "Combo Set" ($8.95), which featured BBQ Chicken and not apparent to me until after I ordered, BBQ Shrimp.
"Not so fast El Guapo!"
What I got was kind of strange and disturbing....the "BBQ Chicken" looked pan seared and like something I'd make at home. It had very little flavor. I love good Kai Yaang, so this was depressing.
The shrimp I was terrified of was cooked decently, but had little flavor.
The fried rice was actually not bad, but also needed a flavor injection.
It was kind of weird in a way. I felt like I was taken back to Thai restaurant food in the 80's, where restaurants were afraid of serving true, traditional flavors. Even in terms of "Ameri-Thai" this was a step backwards.
Contrary to what you might think, I take no joy in doing this post. Everytime I do a post that is less than positive, I get a couple of emails that suggest I do only "positive reviews". The problem with that being; I don't do "reviews", this is my little space where I post my opinions on what I/we ate. Secondly, I do wish the world was "butterflies and puppy dog tails", but it's not. Then there's those that usually start by marginalizing me, or calling me a name, then tell me something along the lines of, "if you have nothing good to say, you should say nothing at all." These folks I ask to start by setting the example first. Even more interesting, I'll get an email on a post like this one, telling me I know nothing about "REAL THAI FOOD LIKE IN THAILAND"......funny thing was; we'd just returned from Thailand.....go figure.
Chaba Thai Kitchen
8010 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111