Dinner out on a Friday is such a rarity for us….we don’t do crowds or waiting very well, so the only way we will go to a “sit-down” place on a Friday or Saturday evening is usually if we have reservations. I was planning on making one of my farmers market meals Friday night for dinner (roasted chicken, potatoes, and salad) but Philip needed to head over to the Bonny Oaks area to pick up his paycheck so we decided to go to Hamilton Place. We were trying hard to think of somewhere local to eat in that area-there are not many places (I guess the rent’s outta control!). I suggested Sweet Basil Thai, but Brainerd Road is not a fun place to drive on Friday or Saturday night (well, it’s never a fun place to drive, but especially not on a weekend night) so we decided to go to Rain instead.
The atmosphere at Rain is pretty fantastic. It is beautifully decorated. We were seated in the bar area at a table that we felt encouraged people to be that couple (that’s what we call couples who sit on the same side of the booth when dining out together-no offense if you are part of one of “those” couples!) because it was a large booth with a large table, made more for 3 or 4 people than 2. We worked it out, though. They have an area where the tables are sunk down into the floor…you sit on a cushion on the floor around the table but you put your legs down under the table. I’ve sat in that section when I’ve gone to lunch with colleagues but Philip never has….we should have asked to be seated there. There were not a lot of people there when we arrived, but our section filled up very quickly after we got there. Good timing!
Our server, Angelia, took our drink orders (water, duh!) very quickly, and we also decided to order some spring rolls. The funny thing is, I always think of spring rolls as soft (not fried) rolls wrapped in rice paper, but Sweet Basil and Rain both serve fried spring rolls. The wrappers are not as thick as one would find encasing a traditional Chinese eggrolls, but rather thin and very flaky, and they are vegetarian, containing cabbage and carrots. They are skinny and rolled up super tight and served with a slightly sweet and slightly spicy dipping sauce. Very tasty, though I’ll have to try the unfried rice paper version some time.
Here’s the problem I have when I go to Thai restaurants: I love pad Thai. I love it so much that I can’t seem to bring myself to order anything else. I just can’t do it! Well, I think I ordered fried rice at Rain once because I wanted to try Thai fried rice, but then I spent the whole meal wishing I had some pad Thai (even though I liked the fried rice). I looked over the menu about ten times trying to pick out something else to order, but I kept coming back to pad Thai. Of course, it also seemed like every time I found something that sounded interesting it would have the word “spicy” in the description. I know a person as obsessed with food as I am “should” be into spicy food, but I’m not. Weakness, I suppose. So, I broke down and ordered the usual. Interestingly, they ask here if you want the pad Thai “mild, medium, hot, or Thai hot”. I’ve never been asked what heat level I wanted my pad Thai at any other Thai restaurant. I justified my order by saying that “a lot of people order pad Thai….I should review a popular dish, right?????”
Pad Thai is basically medium-wide rice noodles with a sauce that is sweet, salty, and sour all at once. It has chicken, shrimp, tofu (in a very small dice and fried crisp), bean sprouts, scallions, and crushed peanuts. Lime wedges are included on the side for squeezing over the top. This is a huge plate of noodles (as you can see) so I probably only ate about half. Delicious and fresh. (On a side note, I love to make Thai-style rice noodles at home. I’ll have to post that recipe some time.)
Philip usually orders pork Panang curry, which is pork and vegetables in a coconut and curry sauce (too spicy for me) and it took him a while to decide not to order it this time. He decided instead to get the sweet and sour chicken, after our server assured him that it wasn’t just like the usual sweet and sour chicken served at every Chinese hole-in-the-wall in America (not that there’s anything wrong with that). This dish definitely didn’t have the same “Thai” feel as the Panang curry, but it wasn’t the usual suspect either. It was a fried chicken breast, sliced into thin strips and served with onions, peppers, carrots, and pineapple in a red but not Technicolor sauce. The sauce was not the candy-ish sauce usually served alongside or poured over sweet and sour chicken…it was actually a ketchup or chili-sauce based sauce that was spicy but not too much so (I took a bite). Philip said that it didn’t get spicier as he was eating like the curry usually does….he has a pretty high tolerance for spicy but usually has to stop at some point because it just gets too hot to handle. He too got full well before the plate was empty.
Angelia offered us dessert but we were definitely too stuffed for dessert. At some point I’m going to have to do a soup/salad combo so I can fit some sticky mango rice pudding or fried bananas in….we got a good laugh out of the “brownie and ice cream” on the dessert menu. Is that a Thai brownie? Ha. They also have a kid’s menu which includes chicken strips and cheesy noodles, which is always a little odd to see on an ethnic menu, but I guess they have to have something for everyone.
I’m not going to mince words here….Rain is not my favorite Thai restaurant. Sweet Basil is and probably always will be (although there are a couple of places I’ve yet to try). (Funny that I haven’t reviewed Sweet Basil yet, but we actually went there for a blog post almost a year ago and lots of factors resulted in me never writing the post.) Still, the food is tasty and the atmosphere is lovely. I hear their sushi is good as well (the idea of sushi at a Thai restaurant has always made me snicker a little) but I haven’t tried it myself yet. If you are in the area, skip the chain restaurants and give Rain a try!
Rain Thai Bistro is located at 6933 Lee Highway, Chattanooga, TN 37421 (in the Rush complex). You can call them at 423-386-5586. You can also visit their website, rainthaibistro.com.