A Festival of Flavor @ Little Thai Kitchen

Stephanie Webster

It was a Saturday night and I was tired of the standard nouveau American fare. I was in the mood for the spicy sweet flavors of Thai cooking, but where to go in Fairfield County? A friend whose taste buds I trust told me her go-to spot was Little Thai Kitchen or LTK, with Greenwich, Darien, and NYC locations. We opted for Darien, (right across from the train station) and our party of four headed out in the pouring rain to seek out dinner. 

Walking into LTK is sort of like walking into a West Elm catalogue. It is modern and sleek with splashes of bright color giving it a nice clean design. The two dining spaces to either side of the front door are small, as a good chunk of their business is take-out, but we found that with the lights dimmed it was surprisingly cozy and well appointed. We took a seat next to the large corner window and discreetly checked out the food on the other guests' tables. It looked good. It smelled good. We quietly prayed to whatever God worked for each of us that we had found some decent Thai food in this town.

At first glance the menu at LTK has all the classic Thai standards. I was concerned that the food might not be authentic or spicy enough to satisfy my need for heat. Ye of little faith. While not excessively fiery, this extensive menu delivers some nuanced flavors, unique dishes, and beautiful fresh ingredients. They even feature recipes for several Thai curry pastes on the dine-in menu. (Bring a pen and copy them down because they don't include them on the take-out version and we hear they're good.) Browsing the menu we found everything from Mango Fish Curry in the large seafood section, Big Bowl Noodle Soups, a menu of Classic Curries (which makes me salivate even now), interesting rice and noodle plates, and a great group of duck dishes. 

We noticed a couple with tears in their eyes behind us and felt compelled to inquire further. We discovered they were eating the Lime Chili Shrimp whose heat apparently sneaks up on you. We answered their dare (yes, they did actually dare us) and promptly ordered one for the table along with the Thai Minced Chicken, Thai Curry Puff, Vegetable Dumplings, and the Mee Grob (Thai crispy rice noodles with shrimp). The Thai wait staff was knowledgeable and helpful as a team of two helped us place our appetizer order.  We sipped on sweet Thai Iced Teas as we watched cars gets stuck in a gigantic puddle across the street. Still raining…

The first Appetizer to arrive was the "tear-jerker," the Lime Chili Shrimp (seen above). A generous portion of lightly breaded, spicy and flavorful shrimp lay atop a bed of red peppers, onions, and celery. A slight sweetness nicely balanced the chilies in this dish, and the spicy sauce permeated the vegetables giving them a surprising kick as we polished them off. No tears, but definitely the right amount of heat. In fact all of LTK's offerings are spiced moderately allowing you to experience the true Thai flavors without overpowering the food (and clearing out your sinuses). The dishes they deem "Spicy" on the menu are still within reason.

The Mee Grob came next plated like a birds nest of light crispy noodles with red pepper and small sweet and sour shrimp hidden in almost every bite. I generally shy away from the "fried noodle" category, but these had no hint of greasiness, and were, quite frankly, fun to eat. The Thai Curry Puff was stuffed with curried minced chicken, onion and potatoes, and was a flavorful melt in your mouth treat. At the last minute we smelled the lemongrass in a passing Tom Yom Noodle Soup, and added that to the tab. It had a perfect balance of sweet lemon grass, sour lime leaves, spicy chiles and mushrooms in a chicken broth laced with coconut. It was a definite winner. 

LTK's Thai Minced Chicken (seen above) is akin to a deconstructed "lettuce wrap." It was the most mild of the dishes we experienced that evening, well suited for kids, with cilantro, carrots, celery and a nice clean taste. I'm not sure I would order this again given the range of other more interesting items on the menu but it certainly passed muster. 

We had whet our appetites, and were ready for the entrees. Our server had encouraged us to go for the Spicy Drunken Noodles instead of the standard Pad Thai which was an astute call on her part. These wide flat rice noodles in Ga Prow (or spicy basil) sauce were mingled with onions and red peppers and had fabulous rich basil flavor. They were soft, satisfying and excellent.

We tried two curry dishes off of their Classic Curry menu which features Thai Red, Thai Green, Massaman, Jungle (no coconut), Penang, and Yellow Curry. The Thai Red Curry was creamy and sweet with moderate heat and a great coconut undertone. The Thai Green Curry is the dish by which I judge the quality of all Thai restaurants (as it is my favorite). If I feel the need to break with custom and ask for a spoon to finish the bowl, I know it's good. I had no shame on this night. I went for the spoon. It was a perfect balance of coconut, lemongrass, coriander, basil, lime and green chilies. Delicious. I had to ask for extra rice to sop it up.

We had read a review that mentioned the Gang Ped Yang as a standout, and it did not disappoint. This spicy duck dish had red curry, pineapple, coconut and basil, and once again was moderately but not overly spiced. It had all the classic Thai flavors including the sweetness from the fruit, the heat from the spicy Thai chilies, and the richness of the duck. It was a solid dish. 

As we were slowing down (although the rain was not), we realized that a plate of Pro Raam was waiting on the far edge of the table. Forks were raised yet again as we enjoyed this simple dish with lightly grilled chicken, spinach, and a wonderful rich peanut sauce. The sweet nutty sauce was the perfect ending to the spicy meal, and never having been a huge fan of Thai desserts, we opted for more Thai beer.

When I have a Thai craving these days, I know where to go. With multiple locations in Greenwich, Darien, and a new spot in Stamford called Little Buddha, there's alway one nearby. If you are lucky enough to live close enough for takeout..I'm jealous. 

Dinner at Little Thai Kitchen is very reasonable. Appetizers are priced between $2.95 for a Vegetable Spring Roll to The Duck Salad at $10.95, but most are around $7. Entree prices range from $9.95 for a noodle bowl to $20.95 for the duck dishes. The average entree is around $15. 

The Little Thai Kitchen

4 West Ave., Darien. 203.662.0038

21 St. Roch Ave., Greenwich. 203.622.2972

Little Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon