Address: 880 Front St., Lahaina, HI 96761
Price: $-$$ BYOB
Dine-in or Take-out
Hours: M-F 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Nightly 5-9:00 p.m.
Kale’s Favorite: Beef Yum Salad $10.95
Editor’s Rave: Spicy Fried Fish $14.95
Work Out Twice Tomorrow: Pad Thai with Everything $12.95
Vegetarian Lover: Curry Peanut Tofu $10.95
Mama’s Gotta Have It: Green Papaya Salad $8.95
Significant events burn in the memory and are easily conjured by association, which is why Thai food thrills me so. It was in Bangkok after an errant bite of death defying hot chili brought me to my knees as steam billowed from my ears and tears covered my face, that I came to fully appreciate the gift of life. I had begun to fear mine was over during the eternal moment it took to catch my breath.
Fortunately, Thai food does not always produce such drama, but it is always exciting. Even if you can’t fly off to Bangkok after a bad day, ordering from Thai Chef can turn a hum-drum night of reality TV into a festival of exotic flavors. The adrenaline surge you’ll get from that elegant pairing of lemongrass, kafir, basil, and chilies may revive you enough to boo out loud at that crazy guy on American Idol who for some bewildering reason believes he can sing.
Enduring a challenging work day followed by amateurish TV performances is demanding enough, hence, you might be wise to order on the safe side as we did – a Green and Red Curry Chicken – one medium and one mild, just to cover the bases. (As former experience has taught us, when Thai Chef says Hot unless you are Thai you probably aren’t man enough to eat it.)
It may have been that baptism by fire long ago or perhaps we’ve accumulated significant taste bud muscle since them but it seems the chef has toned down the spice quotient at Thai Chef. Though tasty, the mild versions of both the Chicken Curry our single foray into the unknown, Red Pineapple Shrimp Curry, ached for an added chili kick. If you are accustomed to Thai food we suggest you try the Medium strength. Whichever you chose, the flavors are addictive.
The Yum Beef Salad is appropriately named – for yum it is. Rare sliced beef served on a bed of lettuce, cucumbers, tomato, carrots and onion with fresh mint, cilantro and a delicious lemongrass ginger dressing is both flavorful and refreshing. Since it’s not a complete Thai meal without a cup of Tom Yum, eradicate recent VOG damage by sipping on Thai Chef’s classic vitamin packed broth.
There is an extra page on Thai Chef’s menu devoted to choices for Vegetable Lovers which also explains why the restaurant is typically filled with glowing, fit people many of whom floated over from the nearby Yoga studio and salon.
Voted Best Thai restaurant on Maui for many years running, this Lahaina mainstay offers both value and high quality. Dine in the small (and usually lively) knick-knack laden room just a few doors down from Kentucky Fried Chicken in Lahaina Center, or order ahead for speedy carry-out. Most dishes are prepared Mild, Medium or Hot. If you like it Hot, you’re in luck!