Tom Yum Thai boasts an irreproachable heritage and some authentic dishes that have made this new Thai spot on the border of Garland and Plano a real hit with the Asian community and beyond.
Owner Rosie Keopaseut also owns the well-regarded Noodle Wave in Richardson. And her sister is Tammy Wanbayor, who owns Jasmine in north Plano and Nakhon Thai, which she recently renamed Jasmine II, a few blocks south. Between the two, the sisters have outlying Thai nearly locked.
Keopaseut did Tom Yum’s interior design herself, and it’s terrific: cool and modern, with a lime-and-chocolate color scheme and rows of bamboo rods in artfully deliberate disarray. The entrance is a trip, with a stucco and stone cave that evokes a castle. Chairs are a cross between Eames and Ikea; water glasses tilt whimsically. Servers’ t-shirts sport trendy cartoon motifs such as Curious George, rendered in a folk-art quilt—ironic yet childlike.
The food exhibited a degree of uncommon authenticity and sure-handed application of heat. Keopaseut and her sister cooked in Thailand, in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, where food runs hotter than the north. At Tom Yum, flavors were sharply defined, with a skillful weaving of the hot-sweet-salty that Thai represents. For example, a warm streak lurked in the Rama chicken, named after Thailand’s dynasty of kings, with chicken and broccoli in rich, house-made peanut sauce.
The search for a not-hot dish unearthed one of the best things on the menu: chicken over ginger rice. In a word: elegant. Sheets of chicken were steamed until soft and white, then draped over a mound of moist, chewy “broken” rice, flavored with ginger and drizzled in a ginger sauce with a hint of candied sweetness. Scattered on top were planks of fragrant fresh ginger, steamed just until the burn went away.
Basil-aged egg was described by the server, rather diplomatically, as “very Asian.” It starred preserved eggs, sometimes called “1,000-year-old eggs,” which are truthfully preserved for a few months in a sodium carbonate mixture that turns the egg white amber and the yolk gray, with the texture of a hard-cooked egg. Tom Yum coated them with crumbs, frying until the edges were crisp, and cut them into quarters for maximum eye appeal. Salty and sulfurous, they gave an exotic edge to the stir-fry of chicken, basil, bell pepper, onion, and long bean.
Dishes like these draw not only Asian customers but also diners who crave authenticity. And Tom Yum doesn’t serve alcohol, for those who like to BYOB.
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