QUEEN FRIENDLY THAI (534 Queen West, at Ryerson, 416-504-0030) Complete lunches for $15 (dinners $20, late-night $15), including all taxes, tip and a bottled juice. Open daily for $8.95 lunch buffet 10:30 am to 5 pm, $12.95 dinner buffet 5 to 10:30 pm, $7.95 late-night buffet 10:30 pm to 4 am. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: N
Never show up late for a buffet. I should know better, but since the latest offshoot of the Friendly Thai franchise advertises that its all-you-can-eat Thai lunch buffet ($8.95/$12.95 dinner/$7.95 late) is available daily till 5 pm, I figure showing up at 1:45 pm shouldn't be a problem.
I'd visited the just-launched smorgasbord in the defunct Amato's at Queen and Bathurst a few days earlier at around noon. Then I'd found a fairly busy room chowing down on rudimentary steam-table takes on pseudo-Thai dishes like sweet 'n' sour tofu with stewed mango, and veggies in greasy green curry. Nothing particularly appetizing, but since the joint offers this cheap spread till 4 am on weekends, I imagine it might seem appealing if you've been drinking.
The food on my second visit literally scrapes the bottom of the barrel. Chicken fried rice has been sitting on the steam table so long, it's formed a crust. And it contains no discernable chicken either, frozen corn being the main ingredient.
All that's left of stir-fried glass noodles is a solitary shrimp, a few tiny blocks of petrified tofu and a handful of oily noodles that have congealed into a lump. Basil beef lacks any Thai taste, the kitchen pulling off the trick of overcooking the meat while leaving its accompanying bell pepper and onion almost raw. I manage to scoop up the last of the cashew chicken - one small chunk of thigh, a whole lotta peppers and a few soggy nuts, an uncooked piece of celery adding the only crunch. What I assume are onion rings turn out to be squid.
It would be easy to make some smartass remark about Queen Friendly's name. But it's the food here that's the joke.