Fork & Stix

Fork & Stix recently opened its doors on the eastern edge of the U. City Loop just off Delmar Boulevard, and local foodies have been talking and blogging about the place ever since. On our recent visit, we learned first-hand what all the hype was about.

The restaurant differentiates itself from many other nearby Thai eateries in that it focuses primarily on Northern Thai cuisine, which doesn't heavily feature some of the stereotypical Thai ingredients, like coconut milk, that we've become accustomed to here in the States. Also, generally speaking, the food from this area is not supposed to be as spicy as that found in some other parts of the country.

It's hard for us to indulge in Thai food without getting a bowl of Tum Yum soup ($3), and Fork & Stix had a great version. This traditional hot and sour soup was redolent of lemon grass and lime with tender bits of chicken floating in the mix. Also part of the starting lineup was an order of Thai Stix ($4), crab and cream cheese wrapped in an egg roll wrapper--kind of like a cylindrical crab rangoon--served with a sweet chili sauce for dipping. Portions for both dishes were small, allowing plenty of opportunities for grazing around the menu.

As expected, there were several curry dishes listed, and we opted for the Red Curry ($7), served up with sticky Thai rice, a staple of the northern region of the country. Our server recommended medium heat on this dish, and even though we'd been told Northern Thai is milder than other regional cuisine, this curry had plenty of heat! It also featured a delicious mix of tender bamboo shoots, bits of bell pepper, and yes, a bit of coconut milk to smooth it out.

One dish that caught our eye immediately was the Yakisoba ($7), a Japanese stir-fry specialty featuring thin egg noodles, cabbage, carrots and onions in a savory sauce that's reminiscent of a thinner, less salty Worcestershire. We chose to add pork, though both chicken and veggie versions also were available. At first, this item seemed to be an oddity; but on reflection, it makes sense to have this on the menu. While it might not be a traditional Thai dish, it fit in thematically with the rest of the offerings in that it was simple, mild and subtly flavorful. As is common at Thai restaurants, much of the seasoning is up to the diner and there were several sauces on the table to choose from when we wanted to up the spice quotient.

While all this good food made us long to wash it down with a crisp Thai lager, Fork & Stix doesn't serve alcohol. But there were several Thai beverages available that were delicious and refreshing, like the Cha Manao ($3), a sweetly spiced iced Thai tea flavored with fresh lime juice.

Diners at Fork & Stix who want to stick closer to dishes they're familiar with will find old favorites like Pad Thai and Papaya Salad available, while the more adventurous eater has a variety of new culinary experiences to explore, and all at really affordable prices--nothing on the menu exceeded the $10 mark before add-ons.

--Fork & Stix, 549 Rosedale Ave., 863-5572