Thai Mai Su in a Big Ole NOT

2011.Jul.14 Thursday · 3 comments

in Restaurants

It’s all the talk in the foodie community here. Since Empire Thai closed up shop, it has left Microcentro bereft of decent Asian food options for a casual lunch (there’s always Bengal or Delhi Darbar for Indian, but that’s just not the same) so when word starting racing around that a new Thai spot was opening, everyone got excited, including me. Then it came out that it was “Thai Fast Food”, and visions of shopping mall faux-Thai danced through my head. And then the whisper was that the chef from the Thai embassy was behind the whole thing and flickers of hope sprang up. And then the name was released, Thai Su, Paraguay 406, Centro, 5252-THAI (isn’t that cute, 8424 if you must know), and I had this immediate flash to comedian Bradley Lum, a.k.a. Tai Mai Shu. I was going to start this post with one of his videos, but I’d forgotten just how raunchy they get – and having watched through a dozen of them, well, most of them aren’t that funny after all. So, instead, above, real Thai Fast Food – 36 seconds from the start of scooping ingredients to plate.

Thai Su

So Thai Su is a whole lot shinier and newer and sleek and high tech than the place serving up above. Video screens and lots of orange are pretty much what will strike you on entering. The menu is easy to follow, with Thai names and then descriptions in Spanish next to them, vegetarian dishes are color coded in parrot green (there are only four). And while Thai was what had been touted about, the name has a subtitle – Thai Food & Sushi factory – the last word giving a bit of pause. So there’s this counter on the right when you come in with a refrigerated counter that holds pre-made sushi and salads all in sealed plastic containers, and down below them, in a sort of pit kitchen, a half dozen cooking folk are hanging out.

Here’s where it gets a bit dicey. I was watching the operation, and the kitchen is divided into two sides. On the left is where the actual cooking is being done – but they’re not cooking up dishes. What they’re doing is cooking up ingredients to get them ready to be used in the finished dishes. Now, if you watch the video above, that’s kind of how things are there too, though likely those individual ingredients are not precooked, or only partially so, instead, fresh ones go into a high heat wok to be stir-fried. At Thai Su, big plastic bus tubs (those things busboys use to clear plates in cheap diners) are filled with things like diced and pre-cooked chicken, beef, pork, potatoes, vegetables. Apparently hungry, the pot and pan washer kept dipping into a tub of what looked like beef with his dripping wet gloved hands for a few pieces at a time – oh yum.

On the right, the order station. A ticket is printed out with the dishes, and presumably the finishing cooks are supposed to spring into action. They don’t really. In fact, with a mere six orders punched in while I was there, it took them anywhere from 2-15 minutes to actually produce the dishes. Okay, the latter number isn’t fair, because really what happened with my order and one other was that the cook pulled the ticket from the machine and spiked it as if he’d already completed it and never did cook it, and then had to be reminded and go search his spike for the orders (after first arguing with the counter girls at top volume, claiming he’d cooked everything they’d ordered and they could !@#$%*…). Nice. Especially in front of your customers. The process, once he’s moving, is he scoops his ingredients into a plastic bowl, including a scoop of premade sauce for whatever the dish is, and then, as best I can tell, though this was out of sight, microwaves it, puts it in its takeout container, and passes it on up to the girls.

Thai Su

The containers are pretty, lots of orange and black, and shiny. But after a 15 minute wait and watching how the kitchen operates, I’m not hopeful.

Thai Su

And rightly so. This is, without question, the most disgusting excuse for Thai food I’ve ever had in my life, and up there with the worst food of any cuisine. The saté was a trio of skewers of long ago overcooked and dried out chicken that had been basted with some sort of sweet, pasty, yellow and white cornstarch-y paste that, well, let me get disgustingly graphic for a moment, looked like someone with the clap had jerked off all over it. It’s served with wilted, mushy lettuce that must have been pulled out of the back of the vegetable drawer after sitting there for a week or two – perhaps since they opened. The satay sauce was nothing more than peanuts and sugar ground up in water. (18 pesos)

The yellow chicken curry, promised as extra picante, was nothing more than a scoop of lukewarm, overcooked rice on one side of the container and cubes of again, dried out chicken, under-cooked potato (still crunchy), also not much more than lukewarm, and very lightly tossed with a yellow-ish, vaguely coconut-y sauce that could only be called a curry by someone who thinks that a bottle of sweet/mild curry powder in the supermarket is all it takes to make one. Devoid of spice, devoid of flavor. (29 pesos)

Both dishes only edible in the sense that you could actually chew and swallow them if you were desperately hungry, I dumped them in the trash bin and headed out onto the Reconquista peatonal to look for something to eat. If the Thai embassy’s chef is truly involved with this place, he should a) be embarrassed to have his name associated with it and b) apologize to the ambassador and the people of Thailand. You know what? A Tai Mai Shu video rant might have been completely appropriate.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Allie July 14, 2011 at 12:20

When I went I just ordered the Pad thai, and while wasn’t good, it was a decent option for 25 pesos to satisfy my noodle craving. THanks to your post, I won’t be hurrying back to try more things on the menu.

dan July 14, 2011 at 14:39

I guess there’s that “wasn’t good” and “decent option for 25 pesos” that I have trouble reconciling. It’s like the old borscht belt joke of two old ladies talking to each other and one says, “the food here is terrible” and the other sighs and says, “yeah, and they serve such small portions”.

I’d rather whip up a pad thai myself at home when I have the craving!

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