Tag Archives: thai

A Foodie in Oakland: Jo’s Modern Thai

It turns out you can make Thai food even better.

Let’s be honest, Thai food is absolutely delicious. Mind blowing yummy. With its expert combination of sweet, sour and spicy flavorings, and a complete mastering of umami, Thai cuisine ranks among the best in the world. Take your average strip mall Thai joint in Los Angeles and compare it to a three star Michelin star restaurant, and on flavors alone, the Thai joint might very well win. Indeed, one of the most amazing things about Thai food, is how consistently good it is (at least in California). Sure, you can find some duds once in a while, but those seem to be the exception.

So, I was very curious to find out how the very well reviewed and quite expensive Jo’s Modern Thai could elevate Thai food even further. Was it possible to “modernize it,” whatever that meant, in a way that it would improve it rather than just bastardize it? Was there anything new to be done to dishes that achieved perfection after hundreds of years of evolution? It turns out, the answer is a resounding yes. Thai cuisine can be modernized and elevated, and Jo’s Modern Thai is at the forefront of this movement.

I went to Modern Thai with a group of girlfriends for a busy and loud (middle aged) girls’ night out. Thus I didn’t take any photos of the food, nor do I have detailed recollections of every dish – beyond saying that my mind was blown. I will, of course, return to Modern Thai again for a more careful review. But meanwhile, here is what I recall us having.

Coconut Cakes ($22 for 4). These come with “Tom Kha scallops and shrimp ceviche, trout roe, makrut, bird’s eye chili, cilantro.” I’m not a huge fan of seafood, and I do hate shrimp, but I loved these. The combination of flavors was really on point, with the cakes adding very nice hints of coconuts.

Crying Tiger ($17 for 4). These consisted of small slices of grilled short ribs, served on top of sticky rice in some sort of leaf and topped with “tomato jaew sauce, pomegranate, shiso, herbs.” They were quite spicy, thus the name, but also absolutely delicious. A great combination of flavors.

Green Papaya Salad ($16) . I don’t personally remember this salad. We ordered two, and I remember people particularly raving over one of them – but I’m not sure if it was this one or the other one, and I’m not sure what the other one was.

Lobster Pad Thai ($32) I’m not a fan of lobster – though those who were, loved it here -, but I absolutely loved the pad thai itself. You can also order it plain.

Drunken Noodle ($26) I was blown away by the smokiness of these noodles – not just the BBQ brisket. They were absolutely delicious.

Massaman Curry ($25) This is a vegetarian dish, and it was actually quite good. It was, however, spicy.

Pork Belly Curry ($27) & Beef Cheek Green Curry ($33) I can’t remember either of these, though I do know I enjoyed them. They were both medium spicy, but I didn’t have an issue with them.

Pork Laab Burger ($17) I remember this being tastier than I expected, but I only had a bite.

We might have had other food, and I know this is very unhelpful – I really should have written this review right away, but I do know that all in all I was blown away by all the food. There was nothing that I didn’t really like. That is, until it come to dessert.

Pretty much everyone at the table ordered the salted Thai tea panna cotta ($14) and only one person sort of liked it. The dessert wasn’t sweet at all, and it had an off putting taste. It’s dessert, I guess, for people who hate dessert. I had reluctantly ordered the mango sticky rice ($14) and fared much, much, much better. They basically took what is a common Thai dessert, concentrated the flavors, and served it in a small glass. The sticky rice pudding was topped by both mango sorbet and chopped mango, with coconut cream sauce and pandan rice krispies for texture. Absolutely delicious and worth the hefty price.

Pretty much everyone got cocktails and everyone raved about them. I didn’t taste any, so I can’t comment on them.

Service was impecable, very friendly, attentive, informative.

All in all, it was an amazing girl’s night out with incredible food, and I look forward to returning – and writing a more detailed review.

Jo's Modern Thai
3725 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland, CA
(510) 479-3167
Tuesday - Thursday:5:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Friday - Saturday:5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Sunday:5:00 pm - 9:30 pm

NYC Food Adventures: Dock Asian Eatery

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

This pan-Asian restaurant in trendy Bushwick didn’t hit the mark.

Brooklyn, by all accounts, has some of the best food in NYC. However, for various reason, a visit to Brooklyn was not in the cards during this trip and we had not make do with a brief stop during our bus tour of the NYC boroughs. I knew, by looking at the reviews, that the bus would stop for lunch at either the Timeout Market or Wyckoff & Flushing in Brooklyn, and that we’d have about an hour to have lunch and get back to the bus. I thus was prepared with a list of possible restaurants to visit at either location. That section of Bushwick is really full of restaurants and bars, but a very large proportion of them do not open for lunch, so our choices of well-reviewed restaurants within walking distance, was actually smaller than you might think if you know the area. We decided on Dock Asian, as Mike was in a mood for Thai and there wasn’t anything else particularly exciting on our list.

Dock Asian is not a Thai restaurant per se, though its chef is Thai and many of the dishes in the menu are also Thai dishes. Still, they also serve some Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes. It might just be that those are better, but I wouldn’t count on it.

chicken satay

We started with the chicken satay ($10) and here is where our disappointment started. The chicken was tender and moist, but it lacked flavor. The accompanying peanut sauce was very generic, it almost tasted bottled. It really lacked the complexity that the best peanut sauces have. The dish wasn’t bad, I’m not sure we’ve ever had bad Thai food, it just was below average. This dish came with four skewers, but I didn’t think of taking a picture until after we’d eaten three of them.

I had the beef pad khing ($15) lunch special as my main. It consisted of beef sautéed with mushrooms, onions, scallions, ginger and red bell peppers and was served with rice and a choice of salad or a spring roll. Once again, I found it to be pretty generic. It was tasty enough, but something that you can easily put together in a few minutes yourself for a fraction of the price. Of course, this was likely my fault for ordering a stir fry – but I thought the sauce it would be cooked in would be more compelling. The spring roll was equally unremarkable.

panang chicken

Mike ordered the panang chicken ($16), which comes with white rice. He chose to have it medium, and it was exactly as a medium spiced curry should be: too spicy for me but not for him. The problem, once again, was the flavor. It was fine, but not developed enough. Definitely below average in comparison to the hundreds of panang curries he’s had in his life (we are old and this is his favorite dish).

While the food wasn’t stellar, the restaurant itself was very cool. It had an industrial (lots of metal) / modern feel, and it did look very hip. There is sitting at tall tables downstairs and more upstairs.

Service was competent and friendly. Menus are also your typical QR codes, but they do have paper menus if you ask.

Our expectations of Thai food might be particularly high given the plethora of high quality Thai restaurants we have in California – recently, we were equally disappointed by a well rated Thai restaurant in Vancouver, Washington. But two other tourists from our bus tour who also ate there were equally disappointed with their meals.

Dock Asian Eatery
22 Wyckoff Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237
(718) 821-3900
M-Su Noon - 10:15 PM

Butterfly Crispy Rolls- Mango Flavor – Review

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG-0276-1-scaled-e1625354376794-807x1024.jpg

I got these Butterfly Crispy Rolls at the small 88 market in San Leandro. I didn’t have high expectations for them, but they were very tasty, to the point of being addictive. They are flaky but less dry than I would have thought. I had imagined they would need some filling, but they are flavorful enough that they don’t need it. All in all I’d buy them again.

Lemongrass Thai Cuisine – Restaurant Review – Fairbanks, AK

Lemongrass Thai Cuisine was recommended to us as one of the best Thai restaurants in Fairbanks (which has surprisingly many).  While we liked the food at Tiparos better, Lemongrass is a much more upscale experience – and the food was very good.

We went there during what looked like the dinner rush a Monday evening in March, 2015.  The place was packed and service was a little slow at first, but we didn’t care much as we had a lot of time to waste before taking our plane back home.  Service during dinner, however, went very smoothly.

I played it safe and ordered my favorite Thai dish, mussaman beef ($14).  It was lighter in color that I’m used to, and perhaps a little bit less intense in flavor, though it was somewhat spicy.  It was very good, however.  It was a large enough portion that I was able to share it with Mike (being our last night in Alaska, we didn’t want any leftovers).   Mika had the pad thai ($14) as usual, and she also enjoyed it.  Camila had the kid’s chicken satay ($6).  The skewers were very small, but Camila thought they were very good.

In all, it was a very good dinner experience.

Lemongrass Thai Cuisine
388 Old Chena Pump Road
Fairbanks, AK
907 456-2200
M-Sa 11am — 4pm, 5pm — 10pm

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

Tiparos Thai Food Review – Fairbanks, AK

We went to Tiparos for dinner our first day in Fairbanks, in March 2015.  It was recommended by the concierge at our hotel, who had heard it was the best Thai place in town.  I only tried one other Thai restaurant, but I liked Tiparos better.

Tiparos is a humble place, it has a third worldly look to it with decorations thrown into the walls rather than carefully arranged. When we went there for dinner, perhaps before the dinner rush, the place was pretty empty but for some kids belonging to those who worked there.  Despite that, service wasn’t particularly attentive – it took a while for the waitress to take our orders and later bring us the bill.  She was very nice, however.

The food is what matters, however, and Tiparos it was very good.  Los Angeles level good (which is saying a lot as LA has uniformly good Thai restaurants, unlike the Bay Area where I live).

I had the yellow curry with beef, and very much enjoyed the rich and fragrant curry.  Mike had the panang curry with chicken and was just as delighted.  Mika had the pad thai, and she gave it her stamp of approval while Camila had the chicken satay.  That one was probably the least successful dish, I think the chicken needed more flavor.

I doubt I’ll return to Fairbanks, but if I did I’d have dinner there again.

Tiparos Thai Food
404 Lacey St.
Fairbanks AK
(907) 455-8424
Mon-Fri: 11am-9pm
Sun: 12pm-8pm

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews: Outside the Bay Area

Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas

Lotus of Siam is described as being the best Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, if not the country – so, of course, we had to try it.  After a failed attempt in 2012, we finally managed to get in in 2013.  It was very good, but not extraordinary.  Then again, Thai food is so good in general, that finding extraordinary Thai food seems like a Herculean task.

Lotus of Siam has a huge menu, offering both traditional Thai foods, Issam and northern specialties.  With so much choice, it’s easy to get lost so I asked for my waiters’ recommendation and ended up getting the duck on drunken noodle ($26).  That was a mistake.  The duck was OK, but the noodles lacked flavor.  I liked them, but I didn’t love them.  I would have been better off going with one of my favorites.

One of the kids had the chow mein ($9).  This was a lovely dish.  It tasted like a combination of Chinese and Thai flavors, which were perfectly melded.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a large portion.

My other daughter had the Pad Thai and this was phenomenal. The noodles had a welcomed smokeyness I’d never experienced before.  Unfortunately, the portion was not large enough for me to get more than a taste.

Mike had one of the special panangs. I don’t remember what meat he had, but the sauce was described as a panang with cognac.  It was good, but it didn’t taste any different from a regular panang sauce.  Still, he was happy with the dish, if not the price.

The place was very crowded, it took a long time to get seated and service was competent but busy.  In all, I think it’s a restaurant worth trying, but which cannot possibly live up to its hype.

Lotus of Siam
53 East Sahara Avenue Suite A5
Las Vegas, NV
Phone:(702) 735-3033

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

Jasmine Thai Cuisine – Restaurant Review – Winnetka, CA

What is it with LA Thai restaurants? Why is it that seemingly every  strip-mall hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant serves spectacular cuisine, while many Thai restaurants in the Bay Area struggle to rise above mediocrity?  Whatever it is in the southern California area that inspires Thai cooks, it’s alive and kicking at Jasmine Thai Cuisine.  We went there for dinner last Saturday night (June 2014), and had a simply delicious meal.

Jasmine Thai is a 2-restaurant chain in the west San Fernando Valley.  We visited the Winnetka branch because it got better slightly better Yelp reviews.  The restaurant is cute and well decorated, but it can’t quite escape its strip-mall architecture.  Fortunately, the prices match the casual surroundings with most entrees priced at a downright cheap (at least by Bay Area standards) $8.


We started by sharing an order of beef satay ($8).  The order came with six sticks, which was great as there were three of us.  The beef was very nicely marinated, and had a very strong flavor.  The peanut sauce was standard, which is nothing to complain about.  The dish was beautifully presented in a plate that came with a small iron heater of some kind with a pretty significant flame. I’m not sure if it was there just for decoration, but we did enjoy putting our meat in the flame.  I hadn’t seen this before, and enjoyed it. I know my girls would have loved it.

Cashew Nut Chicken

Cashew Nut Chicken

We followed this with the cashew nut chicken ($8), panang curry with beef ($8) and curry duck ($11).  The cashew nut chicken was fine, though perhaps not as interesting as one might have liked.  Kathy did like the sauce quite a bit, though.  The two curries, however, were outstanding.  the panang was perfect, flavorful, deep, complex, and yet very much a panang curry. The sliced beef had probably been sauteed separately and then added to it, so it wasn’t the star of the dish, but it was good enough. It was the sauce, however, what really shined.

Panang Beef

Panang Beef

The duck curry was similar, albeit a bit fruitier and sweeter, probably from the pineapple chunks it came with.  It was also delicious.  The duck, a hard meat to get right, was well cooked, not too fatty (but it’s duck), and went very well with the sauce.   Both curries are noted in the menu as being spicy.  We asked for them as mild as possible, and our tongues still burned a little bit.

Duck Curry

Duck Curry

The portions were all quite generous. We had leftover of both curries to bring home (which my husband got to enjoy fully).  Where they did skimp was in the rice ($1.50 per person).  We probably could have used more at the table and had none to take home. Next time, I’ll order an extra portion.

Both my dad and I had strawberry smoothies ($3.25) with our dinner, and they were OK. They basically tasted like strawberry daiquiris without the rum. I don’t think I’d order them again.

Despite how good the food was, there are a few minuses to Jasmine.  First, the menu doesn’t include some Thai favorites like pra ram chicken and massaman beef.  Second, they don’t serve alcohol – not even beers to wash down the spice.  Finally, the service could have been more attentive.  We were done for a while before anyone noticed we needed the bill.  The dinner for three came to close to $60 after tax and tip.

Jasmine Thai Cuisine
20156 Roscoe Blvd.
Winnetka, CA
(818) 718-7000
M-Su 11am – 10:30pm

Los Angeles Restaurant Reviews

Bangkok@12 Thai Restaurant Review – Sacramento

Mike and I were in Sacramento for the California Democratic Convention. On our second night there, a Saturday night in early May, we wanted to get some really good food, at a reasonable price somewhere near the Convention Center. Bangkok@12 got pretty good reviews on Yelp and it ended up fitting the bill perfectly.

Bangkok@12 is a small restaurant, reasonably well decorated and with a little bit more care it could even become a little stylish. The table we were offered, though, near the kitchen with a view of the bathroom door, would not have made our dining experience that pleasant, however – but they did move us to a table by the window when I asked them to. Service was good and unintrusive throughout the evening. But in this restaurant it’s the food, and in particular the sauces, which really star.

Mike and I shared the golden bags (fried wonton skins stuffed with ground chicken, shrimp, mushroom, onion, and cilantro, $6). They were good, though not outstanding, and I’d order them again.

As my entree I ordered my standard at Thai restaurants, mussamun curry. At Bangkok@12 you can order this and other curries with either beef, chicken or pork ($9), shrimp or calamari ($10) or a “seafood combo” ($12). This is because they cook the meats separately, and then mix them with the curry. I had the beef, and it consisted of very thin strips, probably seared. They were OK, but predictably tough, and they lacked the sumptuousness of thick chunks of beef slowly cooked in the sauce. They were redeemed, however, by the sheer beauty of the mussaman curry. It had your typical mussamun flavor, but it was even more intense and layered. It was absolutely delicious. The same can be said about Mike’s panang curry, which he head with the chicken. The chicken was unremarkable, but the curry was well balanced, deep and wonderful. So much so that we were willing to forgive the careless cooked meats.

Beef in Mussamun curry

Chicken in panang curry

In all, it was a very pleasant meal and we’d go back if we were in the area.

Bangkok @12 Thai Restaurant
900 12th st (@ I)
Sacramento, CA
(916) 443-5588

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews – Outside the Bay Area

Mai Thai restaurant – San Leandro – Review

October 2013 Update

Mike and I have returned to Mai Thai many times.  It continues to offer great food at a reasonable price. It’s really a jewel.

July 2011 Update

Mike and I went back to Mai Thai for dinner last night with our friends Auguste and Cecily and I had another wonderful meal.  If anything, I would say the food has improved and flavors seem even better balanced and intense.  We had six dishes last night, and the five I tasted were simply excellent.

We started with the pork imperial rolls, which were a bit underseasoned by themselves and contained too much cabbage and too little pork, but which were redeemed by the wonderful accompanying sauce.  Next we shared the wontons, a dish I don’t usually like, but these were bursting with filling and flavor and were absolutely delicious.  It would have been my favorite dish of the evening if the other ones were not also so good.

Mike ordered the chicken panang and I had my usual musaman beef.  They were both wonderfully balanced and intense and oh, so good.  The panang was a bit spicy – too much for Cecily – but the musaman was not (and it shouldn’t be).  The large chunks of beef in the musaman were perfectly cooked, tender and not dry.  Auguste ordered the chicken with eggplant, and it had also a wonderful, intense, slightly sweet sauce. It could make you a fan of eggplant even if you’ve never liked it before.  Cecily had the shrimp, which I didn’t taste but they seemed to like.

I didn’t take pictures this time, but dishes continue to be as beautifully arranged as in our first visit.  Service was also quite good, but then again, we got there early and there we no other parties in the restaurant.

In all, I’d say that despite my loyalties to Zen’s (where I’ve never gone for dinner fearing having to encounter loud music), I’m ready to declare Mai Thai the best restaurant in San Leandro.

December 2010

I have since returned to Mai Thai several times, and every time I have been very pleased. The food is very good and beautifully presented, the restaurant is very cute and the service very attentive. Mika loves the sticky rice dessert (it’s really good) and she was quite fond of the shrimp appetizer. The pad thai is not very spicy, making it a good choice for little kids. In all, it’s where we go when we want Thai food in San Leandro.

July 2010 review

Mai Thai has been open for about two months, but I only heard about it when Mike rode by it a few days ago. It seemed like a logical place for an affordable Friday-night date, and it proved to be a very nice one as well. It may not be saying much, but I’d consider Mai Thai one of the best restaurants in San Leandro right off the bat.

Mai Thai is located at Marina Faire in San Leandro, in the space briefly previously occupied by the Brazilian restaurant Biggies BBQ Restaurant. But if you’ve been to Biggies you are not likely to recognize the space, Mai Thai has painted the walls, decorated it with elegant Asian-inspired art and created an atmosphere that is both stylish and comfortable. In other words, it has followed the winning formula of a number of what I call “Asian Bistros” throughout the Bay Area (restaurants that offer good food in stylish surroundings at surprisingly affordable prices).
Mai Thai goes a little bit beyond some of these by also serving beautifully arranged food – they must have a food stylist on staff (or at least they must have used a consultant). The results are really unbelievable for the prices (entrees are $9-12) and add an element of “specialness” that makes this a perfect place for an affordable date or business meeting.

But of course, the the real question is “how is the food”? Here I’m a bit less impressed. We ordered the pork imperial rolls (6 rolls for $7) and I found them to taste mostly of cabbage and to be in need of some spicing. The accompanying sweet & sour sauce was delicious, however, and Mike was very pleased with the resulting dish. The sauce was also great with the little mixed green salad that came with the dish.

I was not in the least original by ordering the Massaman beef for dinner – it’s my favorite Thai dish. Mai Thai’s version was very conventional, and yet very good and satisfying. The sauce had a great balance and just the right amount of spiciness. The beef was fork-tender and delicious. I’d definitely order it again (and again and again).
I was less happy with Mike’s chicken panang. It had a strong basil flavor and was quite spicy, but I felt it otherwise lacked depth. I wouldn’t order it myself, but Mike would have it again. The portions were nicely sized – we both had leftovers to take home.

We finished our meal by sharing the fried banana with ice cream ($4). The two bananas were perfectly and freshly fried, they came steaming hot, and went wonderfully with the ice cream. That said, I think the batter needed some more sweetness or something to make it less plain.

Service was fine but not stellar – the main problem being that our cokes ($2 each) were not refilled. Still, there were not major glitches and they were nice enough to pack our leftovers in the kitchen.

In all it was a very nice meal – it came to about $36 after tax and before tip, a very affordable price for a meal of this caliber.

Mai Thai also offers lunch specials for $8 – though it’s a little bit further ride, I think I’ll definitely go here (rather than Thai Satay) when I’m in the mood for Thai.

Mai Thai
137000 Doolittle Dr. #110
San Leandro, CA
Open M – Su 11 AM – 3 PM and 5 PM – 9:30 PM

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Thai Satay

Update: We’ve been to Thai Satay many times since it opened, though less frequently since Mai Thai came to town.  While the restaurant was inconsistent at the beginning, it greatly improved in later years. Mike still orders their chicken penang to go quite often.

Thai Satay is San Leandro’s only Thai restaurant, and as such we visit it from time to time. Mike often gets pad thai from there to take to his School Board meetings, and we go there for lunch once in a while. Yesterday, my friend Lola was visiting, and we decided that Thai sounded good.
I had the roasted duck, which comes in a bed of spinach and rice, accompanied by a strong, somewhat sweet sauce. The duck was nicely salted and tasted great, but it was very, very fatty. There seemed to be more fat than duck. I sort of enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t order it again. The sauce was pretty good with the rice, however.
Lola had a combination of masaman curry and basil chicken. The curry was good, though a bit heavy on the potatoes, but the chicken was unbelievably dry. The flavor, mild and inviting, was very good, but Lola couldn’t stand eating it. She did like the soup and salad which came with lunch.
At $9 each, the dishes were a bit pricy for lunch, but from time to time you can get “buy one, get one free” coupons at the SL Times.
In all, while Thai Satay doesn’t have the best Thai food in the world, it does have the best and only Thai food in San Leandro.
Thai Satay
1376 E. 14th Street
San Leandro, Ca
(510) 351-2345
Original Review
San Leandro Restaurant Reviews