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T H E A U S T I N C H R O N I C L E
JULY 25, 2014
a u s t
i n c h r o n
i c
l e
. c om
FOOD
review
Titaya’s, Take Two
Was it Worth the Wait?
But does this shinier, more
upscale Titaya’s
taste
any fancier?
For an early Sunday dinner, we
sampled two winners from the
menu’s “First Bites” small plate
selections: five spinach dumplings
with soy vinegar ($4.95) and shrimp
Leafy Roll ($4.95). Their take on the
spring roll was stuffed to the max,
the plentiful mint a welcome sur-
prise, and served with house pea-
nut sauce. Next up, a few Thai stan-
dards – pad thai ($8.50) and
gang
kiew warn
(green curry) ($9.95).
Served in bright white ceramics,
both ordered with chicken, plus fried
tofu in the curry, the dishes were
everything we’d hoped for, but nei-
ther was singularly mind-blowing.
A food writer could wax poetic
about the hits and misses of any
chef’s rendition of a dish’s intri-
cate flavor profile – how it com-
pares with this version or that
one, how each is subject to gener-
ational differences and familial
preferences, tied
to memories and
habits. But the bottom line
is simple: I will return to
Titaya’s for their versions of
my favorite dishes.
Rounding out the evening,
the dessert menu is a must.
The fried banana roll ($6.50)
is served warm in a crispy tempura batter,
topped with whipped cream and sitting on a
strawberry drizzle; a creamy double scoop of
house-made coconut ice cream is decorated
with palm seeds and peanuts ($5.50).
A tricky way to test a restaurant is to order
a fried fish specialty dish to go, but this one
I’m not an expert on traditional Thai cui-
sine, but depending on how deep into retro-
grade Mercury has slipped, I average at least
biweekly Thai meals. I dream of napalm-level
curry, have a firm belief in the mystical heal-
ing powers of
tom yum
, and can sniff out a
life-changing spring roll. Outside of these rev-
elations, I have few loyalties. I’m a free agent,
just looking for a quick galangal root bump, a
sinus and soul cleansing hit. Still, Titaya’s has
been on my short list of favorites for years.
Naturally, I was among the legions of adoring
fans – and bandwagon creepers – who waited,
patiently, for over a year, to return.
Before discussing the spiffed-up menu, we
need to talk about “the remodel.” When
Titaya’s shuttered their business for an
upgrade on December 23, 2012, no one –
not even Titaya – anticipated our cravings
would take a year to be satiated. The
pushed-back grand opening, liked by hun-
dreds on an unofficial Facebook page, had
several false alarms thanks to repeatedly
blown inspection deadlines. Finally, Titaya’s
reopened on February 4, 2014. As soon as
the news broke, the lines formed.
Titaya’s brother, Ek Timrerk,
now at Kin & Comfort, helped
revamp the menu, which still
offers a lengthy list of popular
items, plus some new special-
ties. The lighter, brighter, and
more modern dining space
was opened up, though not
enlarged by much (a surpris-
ing detail given those infamous wait times).
Painted, black ceiling beams support an
assortment of picture frames hovering parallel
to the tables, joined by brightly colored paper
and bare light bulbs. The updated bar is a
focal point along the back wall, with a decent
selection of wine, beer, and
sake
.
Titaya’s
5501 N. Lamar Ste. 101-C
512/458-1792
Tue.-Fri., 11am-2:30pm,
5-10pm; Sat.-Sun., noon-
3:30pm, 5-10pm; Mon., closed
www.titayasthaicuisine.com
j o h n a n d e r s o n
should have been an easy win. However, the
pla sum rod
($13.95) ordered during my take-
out trial was a letdown. Though smartly pack-
aged to prevent the house tamarind sauce
from saturating the fried fish, the resulting
dish was still too sweet, and the batter an
unfortunate reminder of childhood encounters
with Dairy Queen’s chicken strips. On the
upside, this dedicated member of the
tom
yum gai
fan club (bowl $3.95), is happy to
report Titaya’s version is still one of the best
in town: truly robust and craveworthy. Other
menu items of note: sweet corn taro fritter
appetizer ($5.95) – think Thai fries with sweet
chili plum dipping sauce; classic Thai fried
rice ($8.95) – standard issue, but a great
value;
pad puk
($9.95) – a simple, tasty stir
fry brimming with veggies.
Though many Austin hot spots with notori-
ous lines have earned their queues of loyalty
with legitimately delicious specialties –
Titaya’s included – there are other restau-
rants with comparable offerings. I’ve driven
by many times to see lines out Titaya’s
doors, but shockingly, on my visit I didn’t wait
a single minute to be seated. The staff, clad
in all black, was attentive and prompt, with
the only service glitch coinciding with the din-
ner crowd streaming in. On a related note,
they’re still hiring staff.
Despite the shiny new interior of a still rel-
atively nondescript North Lamar building (one
of many contributions to Titaya’s folklore of
mystery and intrigue), Titaya’s 2.0 does not
indicate they strive to be anything other than
exactly what they are: one of Austin’s shining
stars of reliably delicious Thai food. Haters
gonna hate, I’m guessing, but Titaya’s proved
that even a yearlong sabbatical can’t disrupt
the loyalty of their fans, myself included.
Jessi Cape
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