Thai Surprise

Hip and chic, Asian Mint is a hit in an unlikely location.

 Asian mint can’t claim any obvious points of attraction, and yet this sweet Thai spot in North Dallas has been a magnet since the day it opened in November.

Buried in a nondescript strip center at the southwest corner of Forest Lane and Central Expressway, its location could hardly be called hip. The staff, though engaging, doesn’t exude the manic energy that engenders cults. And while the atmosphere is unquestionably cool and modern, it’s not enough of a lure to pull ’em in.

But Asian Mint has some kind of Powerpuff magic that transforms every potential minus into a plus. The location, for example, turns out to hold a trump: it’s across from Medical City Dallas, and that spells instant lunch crowd. The off-the-radar address is a perverse asset at dinner, too; people flock to it because there isn’t much competition nearby.

Besides, chef Maew Somprasong is not entirely unknown, having worked at a number of area Thai places, including Thai Lanna and Chow Thai. She brings a collection of recipes and a coterie of fans.

Most of the menu is Thai; there are also sushi items and pretty Western desserts. Pad Thai is on it, of course, but also “pad Thai no sen” a clever (if silly) version without noodles, just vegetables, chicken, shrimp, and tofu to pacify the carb-hating crowd.

But the hotter, sassier Thai noodle dish is pad kee mow. Asian Mint did it right by tossing lots of garlic, basil, and chile into the wok, a real thrill ride for the soft, wide rice noodles, bell pepper, tomato, and frothy bits of scrambled egg. White-meat chicken was cut into thin, tender pieces; the dish can also be ordered with beef or pork.

Like every other restaurant on the planet, Asian Mint has sea bass. Why do people like sea bass? Because its firm texture makes them think of steak. But Asian Mint’s fried, crispy sea bass was cooked with finesse, emphasizing the delicacy of the fish. The exterior of the fillet was brown and crusty, but inside that crunchy shell, the stark-white flesh melted away in the mouth.

Of the two appetizer samplers, the seafood sampler was the better choice, with its light, tender calamari, translucent shrimp summer roll, and crisp-edged crab cakes. But the chicken satay was a righteous rendition, with chicken skewers sporting a yellow curry tan and a rich peanut sauce for dipping.

There is one obvious draw here: cheap sushi on Mondays and Tuesdays, infusing these sleepy weeknights with some action, even if the sushi rolls aren’t as tight as one might like.

Once the folks come in, Asian Mint does its best to keep them there. The room feels chic, with its fresh lime and cream color scheme, Jetson-esque bar stools, and groovy acid-house background music.

Service is not totally on the ball, but hostess-owner Nikky Phinyawatana is a charmer, with her savvy, offhand style. She also dabbles in desserts. A brownie with vanilla ice cream barely bordered on decadent, but the pick was her finely spun green tea ice cream cake, a terrific novelty with multiple layers that both satisfied and intrigued. Beverages exhibited a discriminating eye, from wines such as the Cielo Pinot Grigio to the superb Italian Illy coffee.

At Asian Mint, it feels like you’ve dropped in on the pad of a very cool friend you never knew you had. 11617 N. Central Expwy., Ste. 135. 214-363-6655. $$.

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