Thai restaurants and restaurants serving Thai food are not an oddity in Orlando, and everyone seems to have their favorite. I must admit that I never counted Thai House on East Colonial as one of mine. But by moving two doors down, they've reinvented themselves and given me an excuse to take another look, and another taste.
In its new digs next to Wendy's (a better example of yin and yang you won't find), the owners of Thai House have done a fine remodeling job, with varying shades and textures of woods surrounding the room, along with tables and several platform booths that give you the feeling of sitting on the floor without having to crouch down. Service is fast and attentive, and people are courteous and smile, even to the diner at another table who was (briefly) bellowing into his cell phone when I was there.
This isn't some recombinant Viet-Thai, sushi-Thai, nouveau-Asian amalgam cuisine. The items on Thai House's extensive menu are authentic, from the mee krop appetizer ($5.95) -- sticky, crisp rice noodles with a sweet/spicy tamarind sauce and shrimp -- to the strong herbal iced tea with half-and-half.
My test of good Thai food is always tom kha gai, coconut chicken soup ($2.95). While Thai House's recipe was slightly too thin and not coconutty enough for my tastes, the soup had a lovely lime aroma, and the preparation probably saved me a few unneeded grams of fat.
Some names on the menu could be rethought, like "shipwrecked" ($12.95), a spicy baked dish of squid, shrimp and crab with bean threads. One dish from the "house special" page had the unfortunate name of "Smokey and the Bandit" ($11.95), which caused me to pause. Nonetheless, I was smart enough to overlook the name and order it; it's a small tureen of smoked shrimp with thin glass noodles, cross-sections of carrot and broccoli and a fish-sauce base, with so much chili and ginger that the aftertaste actually feels cold in your mouth. It's a perfect match with the ubiquitous sticky rice; ask for extra.
Familiar dishes are well represented, like a decent green curry of chicken, beef or pork ($8.95), and a truly wonderful phad thai ($7.95), stir-fried noodles and either chicken or shrimp, all tangy with lime juice and lemon leaves.
Standard entrees won't cost you more than $12.95, with certain "market-priced" fish dishes, such as a whole steamed red snapper, that can be slightly higher. But the servings are generous enough that any order is a bargain.
While Thai House still isn't my absolute favorite Thai place, it is one that I'll happily be going back to visit.