"Spice to Spare - Streamwood home to a taste of Thailand"
Chicago Tribune
August 16, 2000
By Renee Enna

In most respects, Thai Thanee doesn't depart dramatically from the legion of pleasant Thai restaurants Chicagoans are used to visiting. That owners Ruangurai Chanruang and John Blaine are serving their exotic and spicy fare in northwest suburban Streamwood does set it apart.

Thai Thanee (roughly translated, "Thai City") has an ample dining room - all non-smoking - that seats 60. It's spare yet elegant, with a delicate color scheme of green, yellow, and beige and soft, efficient lighting. Cloth napkins and pretty stoneware pamper diners, who will be further accommodated with reasonable prices and hearty portions of well-executed fare.

We got off to a good start with our two appetizer selections. Chicken satay ($5; beef also available) brings to the table four generous pieces of chicken breast that have been marinated in a tangy concoction of Thai flavorings, including lemon grass, garlic and cilantro. Peanut butter overwhelms the taste and texture of the accompanying peanut sauce, and we preferred the meat on its own, the better to enjoy the marinade's subtle flavorings. Egg rolls (3 for $4), the thin and delicate variety, are crispy cylinders that hold glass noodles with carrot, celery and cabbage. The accompanying sauce is sweet and sour, yes, but spicy too - you'll get a kick from the touch of ginger.

We tried two soups as well, and we could have ended the meal with the extraordinary if prosaically named noodle soup with roasted duck and vegetables ($6). The enormous bowl contains enough soup to accommodate two, or to make a mean in itself. The savory broth, infused with the flavor of the duck, envelops bean sprouts, rice noodles and loads of tender, flavorful duck meat. Green onions and cilantro boost texture and flavor.

Opinions were mixed on tom yum goong ($5 small, $10 large), a hot-and-sour shrimp soup heavier on the sour than the hot. (It should be noted, though, that we asked the kitchen to tone down the heat, which may have affected the results.) Lemon grass and lime leaves dominate the soup, which also contained a respectable amount of shrimp.

Entrees at Thai Thanee include noodle and rice dishes, as well as curry and house specialties. Heat lovers will find plenty to cheer about, for about half of the entree choices are marked with a chili icon. Though the kitchen will make any dish tamer, these are dishes designed to generate sparks.

Lard nah ($7 with chicken, beef, pork, or tofu; $8 with shrimp), one of the pan-fried noodle selections, doesn't look like much. But as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving. The flat rice noodles look soggy, but they aren't; they're just coated with a brown Thai gravy that's deliciously seasoned with soy sauce. Crisp broccoli and several large shrimp adorn these sensational noodles.

We would have liked the Eggplant Lovers entree ($7 with beef; chicken, pork or tofu also available for $7; $8 with shrimp) more if the kitchen had toned down the heat, as we had asked. Our accomodating server would have taken it back, but we decided to brave it out - this was, after all, the way it is supposed to be enjoyed. Jasmine rice accompanies the dish. Chunks of eggplant and strips of beef, both perfectly stir-fried, intermingle with oodles of chilies for an explosion of flavor and heat. If you don't like the cool summer we're enjoying, order this dish for a made-to-order heat wave.

Thai-restaurant afficionados know that dessert is rarely much of an option. Thai Thanee, true to the genre, offers only coconut ice cream. We hate coconut ice cream. So instead of skipping dessert, we decided to sip dessert. Thai iced coffee and Thai iced tea ($2 each), tall glasses filled with a strong brew, sweetened condensed milk and just the right amount of crushed ice, create a terrific, bold finale.


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