Thai cuisine has always been a favorite of mine and my favorite restaurant on Maui for Thai used to be Bangkok Cuisine in Kahului. Bangkok Cuisine was an authentic family run small business. The food dishes were stellar and it’s owner was an absolute delight and he always remembered who we were and what we ordered, so it came as quite a shock to learn that Bangkok Cuisine no longer was in business. The owner sold the business to another local Thai food entrepreneur and apparently went back home to Thailand with his family. Now in its place is Tiki Tiki Thai. The new owner is no stranger to the business and has other Thai food locations around the island. For the final Phat vs. Food of 2015 we decided to go out in style and serve up one more review before the new year.
My partner got to the restaurant before I and decided to order a few appetizers. Chicken Satay, a Thai staple, which is chicken skewers with peanut sauce, shrimp tempura, pork fried rice, Sweet and Sour Pork and Siam Duck which is a crispy duck dish with what was described on the menu as a “special Thai sauce.” As I walked in I was impressed by the atmosphere of the establishment. A warm, cozy ambiance with comfortable tables and seating was accompanied by a soft jazz soundtrack. As I sat and looked upon the food items strewn about the table, I thought I may have stumbled into the wrong eatery. With the exception of the Chicken Satay, my partner admittedly said he ordered as he would if he were in a Chinese restaurant.
Obviously not familiar with the cuisine I exclaimed to my partner, “This ain’t Chinese, brah!”
So in the interest of a fair review I dove in and tried each one of the dishes that he had ordered. The Chicken Satay was the only stand out with its fresh flavor and delicious peanut sauce. The rest of the dishes were mediocre at best. The shrimp tempura was underwhelming, my partner enjoyed the pork fried rice. For me, it tasted very much like a fried rice you’d order in a chinese fast food joint. The Sweet and Sour Pork tasted ketchup based with a very thin sauce and quite unappetizing. The Siam duck looked amazing as it arrived to the table, but unfortunately the duck was dry. The tamarind based sauce that accompanied the duck was good though and I could see using it with other fried dishes. Suffice to say, lunch didn’t start off well and the taste, so far, not memorable so I took it upon myself to hopefully turn lunch around and show my partner how to order and to dine at a Thai restaurant.
I proceeded to do lunch over. We started with Tum Yum Shrimp Soup, this soup is filled with fresh lemon grass, lime leaf, onion, mushroom, cilantro, and shrimp. The best way to describe this wonderfully fresh and tart dish is that it’s a Thai version of a Filipino sinigang. A wonderfully light, warm dish especially on a cold winter day. The main dish I ordered was a Masaman Curry. This dish’s origin is not necessarily Thai. Depending on whatever food expert you speak with, some say its roots are planted in the Muslim culture. Others say it’s a southern Thai dish. Either way it’s a fragrant curry mix filled with cardamom, star anise, cloves, nutmeg, and other spices. It’s a mild curry mixed with coconut milk and served hot with potato and carrots. Finally, for my food partner who loves noodle dishes, I ordered the Drunken Noodles as it’s a Chinese influenced noodle dish with soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, basil and other ingredients.
Despite its name, there is no alcohol in the dish. Some theories exist saying that the dish is so hot you need beer to quell the heat of the noodles. Others suggest that the name refers to how the dish is served and how the noodles are presented on the plate in a haphazard manner. Lastly, this was all served with a sticky rice reminiscent of a mochi rice. All of these dishes really turned around our experience at Tiki Tiki Thai.
These dishes were fragrant, fresh, and all around wonderful. Each bite seemed to awaken our senses revealing a new spice or flavor.
You can tell these dishes were prepared by those that know Thai cuisine. These dishes went a long way in making us feel relaxed, warm, and ready for more even as we sat in an intimate dining space with other diners. This should be a reminder for those like my partner, when in a Thai restaurant avoid the food that resembles a Chinese dish. I guarantee you’ll steer clear of our first half lunch disappointment.
As this dining experience was winding down to something memorable and one we’d love to repeat, the check came. If there is one thing that may stop you and your family from frequenting this establishment it’s the price. This isn’t a fast food affair, but paying in excess of $15.99 for some dishes definitely stung. With the amount of what was ordered we easily eclipsed the one hundred dollar mark. Not even the service, while decent, could make up for what those dishes cost. In the end I do truly miss what once was a place I’d frequent and have experiences that couldn’t be matched. Tiki Tiki Thai on the other hand is a thoroughly acceptable replacement and one that I’d love to revisit just as long as I’m not paying.