If you don't have an eagle eye, you might drive right past the new Khao Suay Thai on Ogden Avenue in Naperville without knowing it. But if it's tasty Thai cuisine that you seek for lunch or dinner, turn around and try to find this gem tucked in between a dry cleaners and a brightly lit tobacco shop in an unassuming strip mall.
Once inside this intimate restaurant (the former Lemon Grass Thai), sparingly decorated with posters of Thailand and a few pieces of Thai art on the red and brown walls, we were greeted warmly and told to sit wherever we wanted. After settling in at a glass-topped table against the wall -- the silver pillows lining the bench seating were a plus -- we perused the extensive menu while taking in the subdued atmosphere. For a restaurant that's only been open about six weeks, I was impressed with the sheer number of options, from appetizers (Vietnamese spring rolls, chicken satay), soups (Tom Yum, Tom Kha), salads, curries (Panang, Massaman) and noodles (pad Thai, Pad Kee Mao) to fried rice dishes (pineapple, green curry), entrees (Thai sesame chicken, Mongolian beef) and chef's specials (Tamarind duck, spicy catfish).
Khao Suay Thai1224 W. Ogden Ave., Suite D, Naperville, (630) 369-4510, (630) 355-7420 or khaosuay-thai.com
Setting: Intimate storefront
Entrees: $9.95 to $16.95
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
For drinks, the Thai iced tea, mango lassi and coconut juice sounded enticing; the restaurant doesn't serve alcohol currently.
We started with the vegetarian spring rolls, four slim rolls filled with vermicelli noodles, carrots and cabbage. They had a nice crisp crunch without being greasy; the sweet-and-sour sauce was the perfect dipping accompaniment. Though the rolls were small, they whet our appetites for what was to come.
With so many options on the menu, we split three dishes family-style: Pad See Eiw with beef from the noodle side, Thai fried rice with chicken and the Chef's Special Three Layered Tilapia.
As a disclaimer, I order Pad See Eiw at almost every Thai restaurant I visit -- I have a nut allergy that makes some traditional Thai dishes off-limits. This version of Pad See Eiw came to the table piping hot and presented in a sturdy sage green bamboo leaf-shaped bowl. The ample serving of well-cooked wide rice noodles with mostly tender bite-size beef and broccoli, egg and greens came bathed in a delectable black soy sauce. In my experience, the sauce can make or break the dish, and this tasty version, not too sweet or salty, will have me ordering it again on future visits.
The Thai fried rice with chicken, cooked with egg, onions, carrots, greens and cabbage, went over well with my dining partners. The fried rice was light with a nice texture. Although some of the chicken pieces were a tad overcooked, we could overlook that. We didn't have any leftovers to take home with us.
As for the Chef's Special Three Layered Tilapia, the menu didn't show a spicy pepper warning that I remember, but it should have. The menu described the deep-fried Tilapia as being topped with a sweet-and-sour sauce.
The red pepper flakes strewn across the dish should have been enough of a warning. But I was still surprised by the heat when I bit into the crisp broccoli and thinly sliced carrots accompanying the fish. The spicy sauce (not sweet) slightly overpowered the mild Tilapia. Luckily, our friendly waitress stopped by often to check in and refill our water glasses.
To cool off our palettes, we splurged with the fried banana with ice cream. Two bite-size wonton-wrapped bananas, deep-fried and crisp, sat on either side of two heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce. The warm banana made for a nice contrast with the smooth ice cream.
Other popular desserts, according to our waitress, are mango with sticky rice and green tea ice cream. Those, and the many other noodle and rice dishes that I wanted to try, will have to wait for another visit. Before we left, the waitress dropped off a delivery menu and some coupons. I will keep the menu at the ready for the next time I have a craving for authentic Thai food.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.