Restaurant Review: Thai 101 | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly

Restaurant Review: Thai 101 

Traditional flavors and hidden gems abound at this new Downtown Thai restaurant.

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ALEX SPRINGER
  • Alex Springer

When discussing the merits of Utah's Thai restaurants with any local foodie, you inevitably get into a stalemate of opinion; it's a lot like trying to reach consensus on the greatest band or film director of all time. We're blessed with a wide variety of good Thai spots that can generate such nuanced discourse, that's for sure. Perhaps this is why I get a little excited whenever we get a buzzy new addition to our ranks like Thai 101.

Ever since Thai 101 opened back in February, my Instagram feed has been filled with people raving about the Chef Specials section of the menu. There's plenty of time to get into that, as I've visited this place a few times now, but my first experience was what led me to believe all the hype I'd been seeing online.

I went in to check out the lunch menu, as it had a solid lineup of Thai classics, which also gave me an opportunity to try their massaman curry ($9.95)—my litmus test for any new Thai restaurant. I also thought the curry dumplings ($10) sounded interesting, so I ordered some of those as well. At the moment, the interior could use some sprucing up. Some art on the walls or a few plants here and there to give the place a bit of personality would go a long way.

When my food arrived, I could see that Thai 101 was borrowing from the family-style playbook. The massaman curry itself came in its own large bowl along with another bowl of rice that could be scooped onto your own plate, making this place a great place to visit with a group. The massaman curry maintained the rich color and aroma that I like, and my excitement to dig in was intensified each time I added a large spoonful to my rice. As massaman curries go, this one is excellent. The flavors are excellently balanced, and it has just the right amount of peanutty flavor.

I hopped between my massaman and the curry dumplings, which arrived steamed and doused in Thai 101's green curry. I liked having the chance to compare the massaman and green curries side by side; I'll typically always enjoy massaman, but green curry has been hit-and-miss for me over the years. The green curry at Thai 101, however, is a definite hit. It's herbaceous, slightly acidic, and goes very well with a bowl of homemade dumplings. This lunchtime visit was everything you'd want from a Thai restaurant: quick service and great food with a few pleasant surprises in the appetizer section.

As nice as this place is if you're looking to treat yourself to a quick lunch during the workday, I think Thai 101's true character is revealed on the dinner menu. Taking my cues from social media, I took a trip into the Chef Specialties, and had a very difficult time deciding what to try. In the end, it was the yaowaraj crab fried rice ($18) and the krabi ba me moo ($18) that won me over.

For those of us like yours truly who grew up with ham fried rice from Chinese takeout joints, the crab fried rice at Thai 101 is a nice mix of familiar and new. All the base flavors are there, but when you throw in some thick chunks of Dungeness crab meat, your fried rice experience gets a whole new spin. The crab meat adds a light note of sweetness to the overall savory dish, and it feels like a slightly grown-up version of the traditional ham fried rice. Like its porcine cousin, this dish is usually best when occupying a supporting role.

The biggest surprise for me was the krabi ba me moo, which sounded right up my alley on the menu. It's a mix of egg noodles, pork, dumplings, bok choy, crispy pork belly and hard-boiled eggs that comes with a hot, savory broth. I was ready to dive right in without really thinking about the arrangement, but I paused to ask my server how best to approach the dish. He explained that the pork-and-noodle mix needs to be stirred together before hitting it with the savory broth. I took his advice, and I could see why this was the preferred method. The finished product is a composition that includes so many of my favorite things—the roast pork, noodles and dumplings in a soup is a comfort food combo that felt like a warm hug in the middle of winter.

Based on my past experiences, Thai 101 has set itself up as a fixture in my dining ecosystem. I am determined to try every one of the chef specials; the Crying Tiger Curry ($27) with its grilled ribeye and red curry sounds particularly intriguing. Regardless of whether you want something familiar and comforting or new and exciting, Thai 101 is ready to take its place among our local Thai all-stars.

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