Thai Place Restaurant – Calgary, AB

Thai Place Restaurant
2359 Banff Trail NW
Calgary, AB
Tel: (403) 338-4405

September 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Given the high volume of restaurants and eateries that we cover here on foodosophy, its become less and less likely that we’ll find that yet undiscovered place that can surprise us…

But on my last visit to Calgary in late-August, I had just that kind of experience.  And in of all places… within a cookie cutter, value-priced hotel situated next to one of the busiest commuter roads in the city.  Better known as Motel Village (given the other discount places to stay on the same street), its not exactly a prime dinner destination area (although there are a few places to eat directly behind all these hotels – one of which I’ve already posted about).

Now I am sure there are those who know about this place, but it would have been hard to believe them had I not seen it for myself.  Passing through the lobby area, and into the main area that splits out to reveal a large open swimming pool smack dab in the middle of the hotel, off to one side of this space is Thai Place.  Just looking at the entrance and you’d make the stereotypical judgment that this is just another of those dreadful budget hotel restaurants, albeit with an ethnic twist.  I had very low hopes for my meal.

To my shocking surprise at this early dinner hour, there was already a big party of eight seated inside.  They didn’t look like a traveling group who had the misfortune of actually staying in the hotel, so that should have been another hint to me.  Still oblivious to things, my dining companion and I took a seat while the busy single server glanced at us to say, I’ll be with you in a moment with the menus.  Not long after, a few other pairs of diners walked in and followed suit.  By this time, my Spidey-sense was buzzing like crazy, both with bewilderment and anticipation.

After all, why would all these people be here and actually choose to eat here?

My opening volley was this serving of deep fried dumplings ($12).  I don’t know what possessed me to order this other than the fact I wanted something easy to snack on before my main dish.  These were definitely frozen and mass produced quality.  The sweet and tangy dipping sauce perhaps the only part of this that was made from scratch in the kitchen.

The low point of the meal was my partner’s Tom Yum Gai (chicken) soup ($7).  According to them, they were very disappointed, but this is from someone who lives in a place where they can quickly and easily fly to Bangkok for a weekend trip.  So higher standards definitely played a role in this judgment.   Unfortunate for them, their main of another fried rice noodle dish ($12) was also given the thumbs down.  Sorry, no image supplied of that.

And then my Pad Thai ($11) arrived and saved the meal!  Wow, I couldn’t believe the first mouthful I took after putting on the side-plated condiments.  Great texture of the rice noodles struck me first.  The potent flavours of those distinctive Thai ingredients that makes Pad Thai such a satisfying dish were laid out and integrated together throughout.  Throw in the couple pieces of prawns to give it some more volume and taste, and I had to proclaim this the best Pad Thai I’ve had in western Canada, probably be a wide margin.

Thinking back on my experience now, I have to wonder, was I extraordinarily hungry?  Was I mesmerized by the crowds inside?  Were my initial low expectations so poor that what came out of the kitchen seemed to be exponentially greater than it was?  Honestly, I don’t think any of these came into play a great deal.  This was just a really delicious Pad Thai.  Had I not had other pre-planned dinner engagements the rest of my nights in Calgary, I would have certainly come back.  In fact, next time I do visit, I am sure that I will…

Thai Place on Urbanspoon

13 thoughts on “Thai Place Restaurant – Calgary, AB

  1. Hi shokutsu

    I love Thai Food and like trying different restaurants. Thanks for warning us to not go to this place, if looking for a high end meal…I don’t think I would mind this restaurant if going for an ok meal..BTW I like Thai boat..What’s your take on that..?

    • A little bit of hit-and-miss, but definitely try the Pad Thai. I’m sure there are other gems on the menu, as lots of people gave this place props before my visit. Just avoid the appies I think…

      Sorry, never been to Thai Boat. So can’t offer any thoughts on it.

  2. Will have to give this place a try, not sure about the hit-and-miss aspect that seems to be their MO but will still check it out. The bar for Thai food has been raised by my month in Thailand last year and some of my former favorites are no longer on my radar, I hope to like what I find here as they are closer to me than the others.

    • I’m of the opinion that this place deserves further exploring and I’d go back to try some other mains, especially the curries. Maybe when I’m back in your fair city again, I’ll do just that. 🙂

  3. I stayed at the hotel in June, and ate there regularly throughout the week I was there. The owner is very gracious and welcoming, and aims to please the customers, as do all the staff.

    Having spoken with the staff, I gather that they tone down the spices for westerners, but can ramp them up to full Thai standards should that be desired. I’m no expert on Thai food, but I found the food good value for money, and of a wide variety. I would eat there again, and I think the reviewer is right to sample a wider variety of menu items.

    The summer is also a peak time for hosted functions and events which also can tax the restaurant’s ability to keep pace with demand. I gather that a major Thai-community function was scheduled to be hosted there in early September, so I think the restaurant deserves another look if only because it’s where Thai-Calgarians seem to eat.

    • Welcome and thanks for your comment.

      The spice adjustment made sounds familiar. I had an experience at an Indian establishment for lunch today, where I underestimated the normal definition of spicy, and had a rather bland curry as a result.

      Given its location, I don’t think I will deliberately seek another meal here as there are so many other choices in the city. But for those staying there and without a rental car or not apt to ride the nearby C-train, you can do far worse eating at other nearby places, and Thai Place is probably the best choice around the hotel. Like I said, the Pad Thai is a sure winner!

  4. With restaurants like these, I find that you have to reassure them that this ain’t your first rodeo, cowboy, and that you can go as normal. Otherwise, they will tone it down and as you mentioned…you will get the bland meals.

    I find that when I order an Indian curry, I tell the waiter/ess that I like it spicy, and they are usually quite understanding — and in those meals, I’ve never had a bad curry. When I keep my mouth shut, then that’s where it all goes Pete Tong.

    Like I always say, it’s always better to open your mouth and say something rather than keep it shut.

    • Great points TCE – but with Thai food specifically, i’ve never found it that spicy. What i’ve noticed as the biggest difference between what i ate in Thailand, and what i’ve had in North America, is the lack of depth, lack of contrast, and lack of attention to textures in North America. I didnt find Thai food all that spicy. I did find great Thai food to have tremendous depth of flavour, layers of flavour built on top of differing textures, with a sharp contrast between sour, spicy, sweet, bitter, and salty. The balance was unbelievable.

      While amping up the spice can help, it’s the balance, contrast, and depth that is missing from most of these dishes. And mentioning that you can handle spice may improve the dish somewhat, but i still find them to be lacking key aspects that make Thai cuisine great.

      • The key is that what cooks and chefs have available in Thailand are not going to be the same things they will have here in North America. For example most of the fresh herbage are grown on this side of the Pacific; just take Chinese vegetables — most of the stuff consumed here is from the Imperial Valley in California, while in Hong Kong the veg may have been grown in Guangdong province. It’s all about how and where they get their stuff as well too…

        When I was young, I always heard the grown-ups complain that the food they can get here is never the same as the way they were from their childhoods in Hong Kong. Adding spice helps sometimes, but a lot of the time…the flavours from the dish’s origin (or as it is first produced or first experienced) simply cannot be replicated exactly.

  5. Had dinner at Thai Place tonight and was quite pleased by the food. The panang curry was quite nice and the pad thai tasted great and had the right textures and depth of flavour. The tom yum was better then your experience but had far too many pieces of lemon grass and galangal that got in the way.
    We asked for some heat in the food and they provided just the right amount to balance things out. Our only problem was the service, while friendly and pleasent we waited very long for everything from seating to bill.

    • Thanks RR for your take on Thai Place. I’d been back since this initial report and came away with another satisfied experience. I can see your point on the service, as they could use a few extra bodies to support the usually busy room.

  6. This is one of my families favorite restaurants in Calgary. We have never tried the appies but their curry dishes are amazing (you can choose how spicy you what it). The veggies are always crisp and delectible! We don’t tell anybody about it, trying to keep it our little secret!

    • I can totally understand your desire to keep it a secret, but I think its out. 🙂 Even with its odd location, every time I’ve been there, it’s seemed busy with non-hotel staying guests dining.

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