Food at Prasai Wangtao’s Thai To Go definitely tastes good, but if you like spicy, ya gotta ask.
THAI TO GO (452 Gerrard East, at Sword, 416-515-8424) Complete delivered meals for $25 per person (pickup $18), including all taxes and tip. Average main $10. Open Tuesday to Thursday noon to 9 pm, Friday noon to 10 pm, Saturday and Sunday 4 to 10 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Unlicensed. Delivery. Access: short ramp at door, no washrooms. Rating: NNN
Spotting a rainbow bumper-sticker on the back of a Subaru on Mt. Pleasant might not be that unusual. But seeing a queer rainbow flag out front of Thai to Go in Regent Park sure is.
That double take's what gets me to hit the brakes while riding along Gerrard East the other day. Though the tiny take-away's locked up tight, inside I can see a small take-out counter flanked by a bright red wall and a smiling Buddha. Above, a beaded glass chandelier festooned with a few feathers throws dramatic shade.
A flyer in the window sends me to a website - thai2go.ca - where I learn that the six-month-old operation not only does takeout, but delivers as well. And if you pick up your order, there's a 10 per cent discount. Bring in your own containers and the discount grows to 14 per cent: no tax! I am so there.
Sitting on a chrome and white leather bar stool, I have to wait for my order, even though it's 2:30 in the afternoon. I'm surprised by the steady stream of customers coming through the front door, since this stretch of Gerrard doesn't see much sidewalk traffic. Most order the cheap lunch combos - combo #4, soup, pineapple fried rice and chicken satay is a favourite - or salads like tart green apple with Thai dressing (#28, both $6.99).
After a 15-minute trek back to the Test Kitchen, a pair of rice paper-wrapped duck spring rolls (#4, $7.99) are still crisp, despite being stuffed with greasy-good breast meat and a veritable flotilla of shredded cabbage, cellophane noodles and crunchy bean sprouts. Curried carrot soup (#19, $5.99) garnished with snips of basil offers smooth comfort to offset the fireworks we expect to follow.
How have I missed Mee Krob (#8, $6.99) all these years? Subheaded "crispy noodle," it's as if a Rice Krispie square had a head-on collision with a plate of pad thai.
Speaking of which, Thai to Go offers two versions, one the more authentic ketchup-free Royal (#38) and the other (#55, both $11.99 with chicken and shrimp) a typically too-sweet Toronto take.
So far, everything's quite tasty, the only downside being the lack of visual stimulation - an integral part of Thai cuisine - that comes with eating straight out of the box. Nothing that some colorful plates, a bunch of fresh coriander and several wedges of lime can't fix.
Our second round of Thai to Go isn't quite as successful. Cold rolls (#7) come clumsily stuffed with leaf lettuce, rice noodle and chunks of unadvertised pork, while gloopy Cantonese-style hot 'n' sour soup (#17, both $5.99) isn't particularly either and tastes like it was made upon order rather than slowly simmered.
An eggy turmeric-tinted crepe (#39, $8.99) folded over a stir-fry of chicken and al dente veggies holds up well to travel, but crab fried rice with frozen corn (#64, $11.99) is fishy mush by the time we get it back to the crib. And despite its two-chili rating, stir-fried tofu with cashews (#35 $8.99) delivers more sweet than heat.
I later learn that chef Prasai "Joe" Wangtao - who spent five years in the kitchen at Pi Tom on Alexander just off Yonge next to Buddy's before launching Thai to Go - and partner Dale Ward believe Toronto isn't ready for the full head-blast of real Thai cooking.
"We'll make it spicy if customers ask," says first-time restaurateur Ward, "but most people wouldn't like it."
Run that past ex-Toronto mayor and confirmed Thai to Go regular Barbara Hall next time she's getting takeout.