It may seem unassuming and out of the way, but Thai Chili Asian Bistro serves excellent Thai food in Ooltewah, Tennessee!
This weekend, Philip and I decided to head out to Ooltewah to try Aji Peruvian restaurant…it’s been on my list for quite some time now. When we got there, we discovered that they aren’t open on Saturday. Oops. I guess I should have check the hours!
No matter, though, because we had a backup plan. A friend had recommended Thai Chili a few weeks ago, and since it was just a couple of miles away we just zipped over there to check it out.
When we walked in, there was only one table occupied (it was 2:00 in the afternoon, so no big surprise that they weren’t crowded) and Kristen, the server working, seated us immediately. It’s a small space, maybe 10 to 15 tables (that’s just an estimate) and is decorated very nicely. Plus, their restaurant inspection is hanging on the wall and the score was 100. Nice.
They were still serving lunch, which is served from 11-3. The lunch menu consists of appetizers, entrees, rice and noodle dishes, and curries. We ordered waters and spring rolls, which are vegetarian crispy fried spring rolls served with a sweet chile sauce. They came out very quickly – impressively so – and were very hot and fresh. Kristen confirmed that they are made in-house (they were that perfect…they looked like they must have been made by a machine!). The chile sauce was very sweet and just a little bit spicy. Our meals were preceded by coconut soup, which is a perfectly flavor-balanced mixture of coconut milk, broth, lime, mushrooms, and green onions. It was a wonderful combination of sweet, sour, and salty. Delicious.
Since pad Thai is my standard Thai restaurant order, I decided not to buck tradition for my post. I ordered shrimp pad Thai, which was $1.00 more than chicken, beef, or tofu pad Thai. Pad Thai, for those who aren’t familiar, is thin rice noodles stir-fried with eggs and scallions, served with bean sprouts and crushed peanuts. As with our spring rolls, we were amazed at how quickly our food came out – we were still eating our soup! It was a good-sized portion, but not outrageously so. Everything was perfectly cooked, with noodles that were just a little firm and nicely cooked shrimp. Thai food is really all about balance, and like the coconut soup, the pad Thai was wonderfully balanced with sweet, salty, and tart (from a squeeze of lime) flavors and lots of contrasting textures from the rice noodles, the shrimp, the bean sprouts, carrots, and peanuts. This pad Thai was as good as any pad Thai I’ve been served in more established Thai restaurants in Chattanooga.
Philip typically orders Panang curry, but today he decided to go off script and order pad see-ew instead. Pad see-ew is wide rice noodles sautéed in a sweet light brown sauce with egg, broccoli, carrot, and your choice of meat (Philip chose chicken). He took one bite and declared that this was now his favorite Thai food order, replacing Panang curry. I was shocked, as he has been eating Panang curry pretty much exclusively when we visit Thai restaurants for 10+ years. When I tasted the dish, though, I completely understood. The brown sauce was very flavorful, with fish sauce clearly being the prominent flavor component (please don’t let the name fish sauce scare you…it gives an amazing, complex “umami” – that is, savory – flavor component to anything you add it to). As with my pad Thai, the textures and flavors all had amazing contrasts and balance. It was delicious.
The prices weren’t bad either. With the spring rolls costing $2.95, my shrimp pad Thai costing $7.99, and Philip’s pad see-ew costing $6.99, the total before tax was just under $20 pre-tip. The atmosphere was nice, the food came out incredibly quickly, and Kristen was a great server. She told us that she eats there every day, including on her days off, and that she loves every item on the menu.
Thai Chili Asian Bistro is located at 9203 Lee Highway, Suite 12, Ooltewah, TN 37363 (in the Food City plaza). It’s a very unassuming location and very easy to miss – it’s between China Rose and Liberty Tax. They are open Sunday-Thursday, 11-3 and 5-9:30, and Friday-Saturday 11-10. You can call them at 423-777-5055. They do not have a website, but you can like Thai Chili Asian Bistro on Facebook.