If you’ve been following our blog (OK, there are some of you out there, right?), you’ve heard me lament the lack of Thai restaurants, let alone good ones, in Ocean County. So, naturally, when John heard about Rama Thai in Egg Harbor, located only a short drive away from the Hammonton blueberry festival, we knew where we were going for dinner Sunday night.
After our bodies had cooled down from the 90+ heat, we found we were ravenous, and able to gorge ourselves on some amazing food. Thai has a reputation for being ridiculously hot; sometimes it is, but don’t forget the main principle that makes most Asian cuisines so great-balance. Yes, you can order some dishes Mild, Medium,Hot, or “Suicide Hot” at Rama Thai, but almost everything else we ordered had a perfect balance of flavors (which made you want to keep eating them forever and ever and ever…). We ordered some soothing Thai Iced Tea (a reddish, beautifully spiced tea with a shot of coconut milk to make it creamy), and ordered appetizers. We started with a standard, Satae Gai (most chain restaurants would serve it up as “Chicken Satay”), and Tod Mun Goong (Shrimp Cakes). The chicken was nicely grilled, and some of the marinated flavors came through, but the dipping sauces (a peanut and a cucumber-red-pepper-sweet-and-vinegary-sauce) gave it the punch. I kept dipping my fork into the peanut sauce-yum. The shrimp cakes were wonderful: perfectly panko-crispy on the outside, moist filling with juicy chunks of shrimp on the inside. It was served with a sweet/hot pepper sauce which wasn’t really necessary, but Julian seemed to find irresistible.
I’d like to say we tried the soups (Thom Yum is one of John’s favorites), but it was just too damn hot! We moved on to the main dishes. First, I will mention the only negative thing I have to say about the whole meal: we ordered a Gang Phed (Red Curry) with chicken, and it was just,well…okay. I’ve made better curries at home with commercial pastes and coconut milk, and I am no Thai chef. Our server had forgotten to ask us our heat preference, and so it was prepared “mild”; I’m afraid that “mild” may have translated to “diluted with extra coconut milk” in the dish. Now, here’s the thing: we also ordered one of the whole fish options- a striped bass with your choice of preparation. We chose Pla Chu Chee (crispy-fried, with coconut milk, red curry, and kaffir lime leaves), and the sauce reminded me of an absolutely perfect red curry (the kind you want to re-catagorize as a beverage!). I couldn’t stop spooning it on my rice. The fish was expertly prepared: moist, flavorful, and cut so as to make diving your fork into it a breeze. The conclusion? Either insist on a hotter curry if you order, or just go with the “curried” fish. As for me, I may stay clear of the curry in the future-there are so many other wonderful things to try! Speaking of which, we also tried the pork Larb (thanks to Jason Perlow of Off The Broiler for turning us on to its wonders). Larb is called a salad, but it’s more of a “meat salad”. Think ground pork sauteed with mint, scallions, onions, lime juice,coriander, chili sauce, fish sauce, and coated in roasted rice powder (with all the flavors in perfect balance). Hoo boy.
And now we come to…the Crispy Basil Duck. Let me make this clear: do not underestimate Crispy Basil Duck. You want this. You must have it. The description is harmless enough “crispy half boneless duck, topped with garlic, bell peppers, basil, and brown sauce.” It is NOT-repeat-NOT the “Chef’s Special Brown Sauce” you are familiar with. It is crispy. It is sweet. It is savory. It is…mandatory if you go there. Trust me on this one.
By now, everyone was stuffed except Julian, who insisted on dessert. He chose coconut ice cream, which was actually excellent premium ice cream that tasted of fresh coconut.
Overall, I was impressed with their attention to small details. The service was gracious and the setting was casual and beautiful (saffron and red-gold table cloths, soft Thai music, a silent TV screen playing idyllic scenes from Thailand). Our verdict? This one’s worth the drive, and we shall return!
Rama Thai – 3003 English Creek Ave. #A5, Egg Harbor Twp. 609.677.1004.