Yes, even though I noticed this place back in August of last year, I took my time checking it out. For osme reason, the "Thai Gourmet Express" portion of the name made me think of bad mall food court Thai.....
Gladly, this was a "steam-table free" zone. It seems to be using the now somewhat redundant "fast- casual" model...the Chipotle-ness of the world continues. And yet, Thailand has some of the best of what I'd consider "fast food/food court" cuisine. I mean Khao Karr Moo - stewed pork shank, in a Hospital Food Court?
There was a wok station where an older gentleman did his thing....the place was shiny, clean.....
I liked the menu; it's simple, tight, poultry driven. They even sold Thai BBQ Chicken by the piece, so I started with that ($2).
I pretty much got what I expected......standard rotisserie chicken with some lemongrass flavor. It was moist, the skin a bit too rubbery for my taste, lacking the complex, nuanced flavor of good Kai Yaang; garlic, cilantro, fish sauce, sweetness from sugar and perhaps a bit of honey or something similar. The flesh was "American soft"; I actually enjoy a more toothsome and flavorful bird for dishes like this.
Seeing Roast Duck on the menu, I decided to get the Roasted Duck Thai Fried Rice - medium spicy.
The guy working the wok looked like he knew what he was doing, but the rice was on the mushy side. There was a nice amount of roasted duck, which was on the mild side in terms of flavor, but was passable. Not enough fish sauce, lacking in sweetness, the heat was one-dimensional coming via crushed red pepper flakes. Just average.
The gratis soup......well, I'd rather do without.
I wanted to give that wok chef another shot so I returned and ordered the ever so deceivingly simple Pad See Ew with Shrimp($8):
This was not terrible, at least the noodles weren't overcooked and mushy. It did lack enough color, soy sauce flavor, pungent white pepper and the very mild sweetness I enjoy in Pad See Ew. Also, the shrimp 41-50 in size were cooked to death and very rubbery. I also wasn't thrilled that they didn't use Chinese broccoli, at eight bucks for a rather small portion, I think they could have at least done that.
Overall, this isn't the Panda Express of Thai Food, but in my opinion, its bit too "gringo" for my taste. The food is prepared fresh to order. I didn't expect Sab E Lee and this place was definitely not. Like I said about J & T Thai Street Food, "I usually don't go to Chipotle when I'm craving Mexican Food, but I don't hold it against those who do."
Still, the couple on one of the tables was ooooh-ing and aah-ing about the Roast Duck Larb....so maybe someday.
Green Shallots Thai Gourmet Express
5447 Kearny Villa Rd
San Diego, CA 92123