With Evan Dodd
Last summer, The Northern Light sampled an array of local foods in search of Anchorage’s best of the best, and now we’re at it again. This year, we’ll be reviewing and all new foods in search of more local treasures.
In the first edition of “Anchorage Food Quest 2012,” we explored and rated five local offerings of Chicken Pad Thai based on service time, uniqueness, flavor, overall quality, presentation and quantity of food for the price.
5. Thai Kitchen: Chicken Pad Thai – While the closest Thai restaurant to campus (located on Tudor next to Uncle Joe’s Pizza), Thai Kitchen receives our lowest score this time around. Service time here was 32 minutes, the longest by far, and the food didn’t show any signs of benefiting from this. The chicken was completely flavorless; it wasn’t even tossed in sauce. Instead, the meat itself was bland, dry and sat on top of the dish as if an afterthought. The noodles and sauce, however, were phenomenal; they were sweet and spicy at the same time, but not too much of either. Unfortunately, each bite of the subpar chicken with the sensational noodles decreased how enjoyable the meal was. The meal was also notably more oily than other locations, leaving your lips with a bit of a grimy feeling after a few bites that doesn’t fade. The presentation was also sloppy, and you don’t get very much food for the dish, which is $10.
4. Thai Village: Pad Thai –Service time at Thai Village (located on Muldoon near Old Harbor Ave.) was six minutes from when
the order was placed, which was on par with the rest of the locations surveyed. And while the quantity was fairly good for the $11.95 bill (not only was the dish rather large, but the order also included a complimentary bowl of Thai Village’s house soup), the quality was a bit disappointing. This version of Pad Thai included shrimp as well as chicken, but neither of these really supplemented the overall flavor of the dish; all you can taste is peanut. While peanut is a main staple of Pad Thai dishes, this particular restaurant doesn’t blend spices to make the dish unique or special; it’s like eating peanut butter and noodles. It also looked hastily prepped and plated.
3. Pho Lena: Chicken Pad Thai – Pho Lena (located on Spenard near Benson) dishes up a huge plate of chicken and noodles for the $9.95 price tag, and service time from order to table-side delivery was roughly six minutes. The flavors blended together relatively well with spices adding to the peanut flavor to make it unique, and the chicken actually stood out as a part of the dish (if only a little). Unfortunately, the noodles were a little overcooked in some places and a bit too oily for our liking. Despite this, Pho Lena’s dish is a very strong third place.
2. Chiang Mai Thai: Chicken Pad Thai – This is the cheapest Chicken Pad Thai TNL sampled by a landslide, at $9.50, and is probably the best deal as far as food-to-dollar ratio is concerned. In addition to a fairly generous helping of noodles, the Chiang Mai Thai’s (located on Old Seward near the corner of 36th) meal also includes a delicious sour soup as an appetizer. The main dish included egg and fried tofu, which added uniqueness to the texture of the food. The chicken was nicely integrated into the dish as well, both tender and aptly covered in sauce to add to the flavor. The only real downsides to the dish were the mildness of the sauce (it was good, but didn’t wow us) and the preparation of the tofu, which was too spongy in the center to be enjoyable.
1. Lahn-Pad-Thai: Pad Thai – The landslide winner of this edition of Anchorage Food Quest is Lahn-Pad-Thai (located on Abbott between Vanguard and Independence). The presentation was beautiful, with the salt, crushed peanuts and chili powder off to the side in neat piles, adding both color and seasoning convenience to the dish. There was also a fair amount of green garnish, as well as some bright green onion chunks to help the neat and colorful presentation. The dish included both shrimp and egg in addition to the chicken, and all the different textures worked together to make the texture varied and enjoyable. The items in the dish itself were also flavorful and complementary to the whole, rather than relying on an overhead dumping of sauce to take care of the taste. The only turnoff to the dish is the quantity; at $11.95, the meal is artful but a little sparse in size, and it doesn’t come with a side or appetizer. The Pad Thai was so delicious and the service so speedy (five minutes, the quickest time), however, that TNL is pleased to give Lahn-Pad-Thai’s dish the title of Best Pad Thai in town.
Next issue, TNL will be scoping out Anchorage’s best burrito, and we want your input! When you’re craving a burrito, where do you go first? E-mail Heather Hamilton at [email protected] or comment on our Facebook page telling which local burrito joints you want us to investigate.