Sun City Thai

I used to loathe doggie bags, mainly the way they stink up the sedan as you're motoring home with half a curry fermenting in the back seat. But I've learned the trick of rolling down all four windows on the trek home so that the breeze blows back any odious odors. The payoff is worth having my hairdo mussed by the wind. Occasionally, I'm able to stretch the day-after goodies into a breakfast and a midday meal. And strangely, some foodstuffs taste better after 24 hours in the fridge. Pizza and fried chicken, for instance, make for engrossing noshes when chill, though I do advise ditching either once the mold begins to blossom.

Such icebox treats double as inspiration for the writing process. Even as I tap-tap away at my keyboard, I am nibbling on a deep-fried banana fritter from Line Thai in Sun City. This oblong hunk of 'naner, coated in a golden batter, makes for a superb snack. Served hot at the restaurant, they almost seem too sweet and rich to be the appetizer they're listed as on the menu. Exquisite warm, when cold, they seem more breadlike and less sweet. I'm glad I only have a few left over from din-din. Otherwise, I wouldn't get much typing done, now, would I?

Before I take a break from composing to finish off some remaining pad Thai and pad see-ew from a previous evening at this two-month-old establishment, perhaps I should enlighten you as to its owner, the lovely and charming Rattiyaporn Chaiyasut. Anyone who's frequented that Siamese standby Thai Rama over the years will find Chaiyasut's smiling face a familiar one. Her uncle started the business many moons ago, and even after he sold it, she stayed on as the manager, feeding me so many times that it's amusing to think that she had no idea I was New Times' restaurant maven.


Line Thai

9805 West Bell Road, Sun City

Fried bananas: $6.25

Satay: $6.50

Pad Thai: $7.95

Tom kha kai: $8.95

Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; Dinner, 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Chaiyasut has been meaning to break out on her own for some time now, and she couldn't have picked a place more famished for Thai food than Sun City, not exactly known as the Asian cuisine capital of the country. In Line Thai, Sun City residents are twice blessed. Not only do they get a decent Thai grub preparer in their backyard, they get one that's decorated like a Bangkok art gallery. Chaiyasut has tastefully hung scores of oil paintings by her artist brother Pinnarea throughout the place. They depict everything from the erotic to the religious. Wood carvings and sculptures of elephants, Thai women, and musicians balance out the aesthetic offerings. Why, it's almost worth the journey from central Phoenix to examine the art.

Fortunately, there are no commercial pauses during food columns; otherwise, you'd realize I'd just returned from the kitchen. I totally forgot that I'd polished off the aforementioned pad Thai and pad see-ew during a sleepwalking bout early this morning. Empty cartons testify to the tastiness of each. The pad Thai was pretty standard, but the pad see-ew, with its fat rice noodles, chicken and broccoli stir-fried in soy sauce, was exceptional, one of the better pad see-ews in town. I did leave a Styrofoam container of kaeng phed ped yang unmolested, and one of tom kha kai. These two taste much better warm, so I blasted each dish with a couple of minutes of microwave radiation, before trotting back to my computer desk to have at them.

My Thai is a little rusty (read: nonexistent), but apparently kaeng phed ped yang translates as something akin to roast duck in coconut curry sauce with pineapple, peas, carrots, and tomatoes. Siamese Kitchen (located in a shopping center on the northwest corner of 43rd Avenue and Olive) has a similar duck-curry dish, and Line Thai's duck concoction is by no means superior. However, it's not bad, either the first or the second time around. The curry itself is fine, but I would've preferred more duck and more tomatoes.

The tom kha kai, on the other hand, is in a class by itself. This traditional Thai soup is brought to your table in a flaming pot, and consists of a reddish-brown sweet-and-sour broth filled with chicken, mushrooms, coconut milk, hunks of gingerlike galangal, stalks of lemongrass, basil, and who knows what else. Slurping it as I type, dribbling drops over my keyboard and down the front of my nightshirt (the vestment I normally wear while banging out a notice), I'm in spicy-Thai seventh heaven. Oh, whatever would I do without a dry cleaner nearby?

I'm still rather famished, believe it or not, so I've returned to the cocina for what must be the most potent item remaining: a bowl of pla duk rad phrik; i.e., crispy fillet o' catfish drowned in a thick, burgundy-colored chili paste sauce, with carrots, onions, and red and green peppers. I didn't notice anything while at Line Thai, but overnight in the confines of my air-conditioned steel pantry, the dish has developed a stench so acrid and overwhelming that I at first hesitate to reheat the leavings. But my stomach rumblings prove more powerful than the stench, and I nuke it at full-blast. The finale is much as it had been the preceding eve, wonderfully spicy, and this at the level of "medium." Next time, I'll have to try "hot."

Of course, I don't have any Singha beer on hand with which to marinate the edibles in my belly, and there's no dessert, either. No coconut ice cream or sticky rice with mango (sigh). Line Thai has all this and more, though. It seems some things are better experienced in person, not after the fact.

Named for traditional Thai patterns found in Siamese art and clothing, Line Thai may not be destination dining, yet. At least not for me, as the establishment is close to a 30-minute drive from where I dwell. But were the eatery a little less than half that distance, I'd make it part of my usual fodder-foraging peregrinations. The tab is cheap, and the service friendly, even if the spot seems a little understaffed at times. Knowing Line Thai is there also makes the thought of retiring to Sun City a little less daunting. Because I can tell you, in my golden years, there better be at least one passable Thai eatery nearby, or I'll refuse to rise above the ripe old age of (gulp) 35!


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