Taste of Thai House (62 Vaughan, at St. Clair, 416-652-0200) Complete meals for $29 per person, including all taxes, tip and a mango shake. Average main $9.95. Open Monday to Friday noon to 10 pm, weekends 4 to 10 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN Rating: NN
This is a restaurant you want to like. Its location on the tiny unloved portion of Vaughan just south of St. Clair shouts underdog. Its interior is an act of bright green optimism.
Unfortunately, the liveliness of the decor fails to inspire the food, which comes across as a workmanlike interpretation of Thai standards.
The mango salad ($6.95), whose dominant flavour is sugar, sets the tone. The dressing is actually syrupy, and douses the other flavours of fish sauce and citrus, but not the pleasant undertone of heat.
Same problem for the sweet spring rolls ($3.95). Admittedly, they're called "sweet," but there should be some balance. They arrive hot and fresh, and their nutty interior is pleasing, but sugar rules. The beef panaeng curry with rice ($9.95) is just good and solid. This is Thai food; "gravy" isn't the word that's supposed to come to mind, but this curry's heaviness falls short of Thai cuisine's ideal.
The squid with fried garlic and pepper ($10.95) is the first dish of the night to have some jump. The squid are perfect, and the garlic and fish sauce flavours are given room to manoeuvre.
Less invigorating is rice noodle tom yam ($8.95). The addition of ground chicken and shrimp wontons is kind of fun, but otherwise it's another ho-hummer.
At its best, this is a neighbourhood restaurant where locals can get conscientiously prepared, ungreasy, unexciting Thai food served by nice people in a nice room.