Is restaurant Thai food a commodity?

I was eating Thai food with the family tonight when it occurred to me that I was almost indifferent to where we got it, since I can’t tell the difference (other than because of presentation). And yet, that’s not true of Indian food…or barbecue…or sushi…or definitely not Korean, where I have distinct opinions.

Do I have a tin ear (tongue) for Thai food? Or (putting aside really bad restaurants), is it difficult to make Thai food exceptionally good and/or different?

Favorite dishes FWIW are chicken ga prao or basil chicken variant, pad thai, and drunken/crazy chicken. Plus the occasional thai curry.

That’s pretty much all east Asian food. I swear there is a factory in Fargo that gens up all of the Chinese food in America in huge vats and sends it out to all the Changs/Chows/Kings/Dragon/Golden Egg/Mings Buffets country wide. They all taste identical. Same with Japanese steakhouses. They are all the same. The cooks even do all the same lame tricks (onion volcano followed by chop chop train, shrimp throwing, slapping the spatulas around without spinning them, hell, just making all kinds of noise with the spatulas).

Thai is the same, though I have found a few high-end Thai places that make the same dishes they all do but take a little more care when doing so.

I’ve had a variety of Thai dishes at different restaurants. Outside of major metropolitan areas you’ll find more of the cookie cutter type. Also, the inexpensive places and ones located in shopping malls are not likely to be unique. You shouldn’t expect much at any low end restaurant either. These are basically ethnic fast food joints, and their clientele will be disappointed if they don’t see the standard dishes there.

I have to disagree that Indian food (as sold in the typical restaurant in the US) isn’t a commodity. It totally is; the vast majority of the restaurants have the same menu of tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, lamb curry, etc. And it all tastes the same, because many use the same bottled sauces.

I think you do. I spent a week getting pad thai from 7 different restaurants, all ordered “chicken pad thai, medium hot”. There was definitely a difference among restaurants.

I’ve had good, bad, and indifferent Thai food around New York City. There are dishes you’ll find on the menu at just about all of them, like spring rolls and red and green and Massamun curry, but it’s not all the same. None of it tastes like Japanese or Indian or Chinese food, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find some common elements between Thai and Vietnamese food, for example.

I went to an expensive Thai restaurant once that was noticeably superior to any Thai food I’d ever had, each dish was created to order by a trained chef. I forgot what we had, but it was all beyond wonderful, and for dessert: a little chocolate high heel filled with chocolate mousse!

Interesting. I’m big fan of Thai food ( or perhaps American Thai ), which is a pretty common cuisine here in the SF Bay Area. Every Thai place I’ve been to resonates as just as different as every Italian, Indian, etc. - I have my favorites, less favorites and I’ve had bad Thai food, which I used to think was impossible.

Hard to say from where I’m sitting, but a tin palate for Thai cuisine is possible ( I know someone who can’t tell Mexican restaurants apart ), but as noted it might just be down to a certain standardization of Thai restaurants in whatever corner of the world you hail from. If by some chance you’re also from the Bay Area, I’m gonna go with “tin palate” :).

I don’t think that really much counts in this little discussion. I mean it only has to do with the food on limitedly. In that food is turned into a show. Granted it’s true; I haven’t seen a new trick in years. These days I judge them on their patter more than the little tricks. (Although I still love the onion volcano. Me and all the other 12 year olds at the table :slight_smile: )

As to the OP, I do find it all fairly generic as well. But I, in myself, attribute that to limited experience. A lot of stuff, like thai or vietnamese and such are kind of thin on the ground in south texas.

So, how often to do you have thai? And how many different restaurants do you patronise when you do?

The ones that i have been to have been substantially different,

Nah, I gotta disagree here, but maybe it’s regional. Some restaurants here have idli or chaat, some don’t; and when they do, it’s made differently. I just ate at a place that added berry croquettes into their malai kofta…holy crap that was good. One restaurant I know makes an execrable butter chicken, but a nasty (good) lamb vindaloo.

I live outside Boston, eat both in the city and in the suburbs. If anyone in-thread has a Thai restaurant they think is exceptional around here, let me know.

Every 3 or 4 weeks. I can think of half a dozen restaurants I’ve been to this year, which is neither a lot nor a little.

Out of curiosity I just did a quick search and while results are crude, based on Yelp reviews I found 77 Thai restaurants listed in “Berkeley”, 117 listed for “San Jose” and 149 for “San Francisco”. Never mind other Bay Area regions like down the penninsula or in Marin or Contra Costa counties.

Lots of Thai food out this way ;).

There are easily a dozen Thai places within 12 miles of here, and each is distinct. We have our favorites, and places we will avoid if possible. No problem telling the difference in the food.

We had Thai tonight too and I definitely can tell the difference. We have two Thai places on our Mail st, and one is certainly tastier and fresher to me. We ate at a Thai place on a recent visit to Long Island and it was even better than our favorite place at home. Thai, in general, is my favorite Asian food.

I have family in the area and they’re very fond of Lam’s in Newton.

While Akron, Ohio isn’t a garden spot for Thai, we have about six in the vicinity. I can taste the difference. Two are superb, two just decent average, and two are mediocre. Friends with whom I go out can tell the difference also.

Heck, even in this town of 30k, we have a really bad Thai restaurant, a decent one, and a great one.

Haven’t been tothis place for 10 years now, but it used to be excellent.

I’ve eaten at many different Thai places and I usually always get the same dish. It *always *tastes different. It’s not like Chinese where places are usually interchangeable.

You need to go to a higher class of Chinese restaurants. There is a level of restaurant where all the dishes are distinctive, that is irrespective of ethnicity. Granted, in a major city you have more restaurants of that level. In smaller communities your choices are limited.