San Leandro Reviews
Summary: Inconsistent food at San Leandro's only Thai restaurant
San Leandro has been without a Thai restaurant for more than five years, so it was with great excitement that last summer we greeted the news that Thai Satay would open downtown at the old Strizzi's location. We were a tad apprehensive, as Mike has gone several times to the Thai Satay in San Mateo (same owners) and the pad thai is always clumpy and not very good but we were still hopeful.
We first tried it on opening night in July 2005. The place was packed and we were given a table for four at the entrance of the smaller room that should be replaced with a smaller table, as it was the waiters kept squeezing in by my husband when the went by. The place was not much changed since its Strizzi days. They didn't seem to have repainted and the carpets were still those dark green and pink flowered ones that were there before, but they've added some Thai looking wood panneling to the walls, a few framed Thai pictures, the obligatory portraits of the king and queen and a wooden Thaiframed bus station. The whole thing really doesn't work well together, but it could be worse. That visit was followed by another one a couple of weeks later with our friends Boris and Regina, by take out a couple of months later, and finally by another visit, this time with my father and siblings last February (2006). Each time, our experience was different.
Thai Satay's menu is just like that of its sibling restaurant in San Mateo. Indeed, the menus we were handed the first time had the San Mateo address. It's quite extensive with 83 items, though most of its focus is on seafood. It only has four each pork and beef entrees - though the "specials" menu adds some more choices. While it features many of the most commonplace Thai dishes, I was surprised to see that it didn't include panang curries or praram chicken (the chicken with peanut sauce served on a bed of Spinach), two of our favorite dishes - though the former was on the specials menu at least once. Appetizers are $6 - $7 and main dishes $9 - $13, a little too steep for Thai food but then again, this is San Leandro. Rice is $1 per person and sodas $1.75 (sometimes free refills are offered).
We've tried their chicken satay twice already, and haven't been happy with it. The skewers are pretty small and I thought the chicken was chewy and not flaky enough and just not very tasty. The sauce was OK, too runny for my taste and served in a tiny portion. We had better luck with the beef satay, which was tender and flavorful.
The massamun curry ($9) was quite good the first two times we had it. The beef was very tender and there was a good proportion of potatoes to meat. The sauce was darker and spicier than most massamuns I've had, but it was rather nice and I enjoyed it very much. The third time, however, it tasted flat and tired; the meat also seemed to be chewier and I was all in all underwhelmed by the dish. Thai Satay redeemed itself on my last visit when once again I enjoyed the depth and balance of the sauce, though this time I felt there were too many potatoes in the dish. Still, I'll keep trying it.
The barbecue pork ($9) we ordered the first time was quite tasty, both by itself and with the sweet & sour sauce it was served with. The slices were a bit tough, but that's a common problem with pork, barbecue chicken or beef may be a better bet. Still, we quite enjoyed it.
On our second visit the pad thai ($8) tasted fresh and was quite good. When we ordered it in October, the smallish portion also suffered from a flat, underwhelming flavor. Other friends have reported similar issues - sometimes raving about it and sometimes commenting that it was just yucky.
On our last visit I also got to taste the red and yellow curries - neither was terribly spicy but they were very nice, also deep and well-balanced. Kathy liked the fresh tasting cashew nut chicken and my dad also liked whatever it was that he ordered.
Unfortunately we are not the only ones who have had problems with the consistency of the food at Thai Satay. Most of our friends have visited it by now and some have raved about the food, while others thought it was barely fit to be called that. Still, given that Thai Satay is the only Thai restaurant in San Leandro I'm willing to continue giving it a chance.
On a final note, I saw a "change of ownership" form posted on Thai Satay's window a couple of weeks ago. I asked the waitresses about it and they said nothing would change. We'll see.
1376 E. 14th Street
San Leandro, Ca