"We've run out of all the ingredients to make an Old Fashioned" is not what one expects to hear inside a swish restaurant on a Friday night at 8:45 p.m. Nor does one expect to see a lemon slice supplant an orange peel in one's Negroni because "we've run out of oranges." But I'm not one to espouse blasé defeatism when confronted by the irksomely unexpected. Maybe it was because the members of this family-run operation were just so eager for patrons to view their restaurant favorably that it was hard not to cut them some slack; maybe it was the mollifying color of our server's nail polish. Or maybe it was both.
Fact is, Oudom Thai & Sushi, the latest in a string of boîtes to occupy the ground floor of the Sanctuary condominium building downtown, can't rely on history's munificence to make a successful run; nor can it hope for longevity based on a plucky disposition and an outpost in DeLand. The most common refrain heard at the table during our dinner was, "It's OK," so becoming a prosperous and thriving operation may be an arduous task. The good news is that Thai cuisine is a populist one, and it's a draw even when it's just OK, like it was on this Friday night.
No doubt it's still a beautiful space, only now it's a beautiful space in which to consume ho-hum chicken-and-veg spring rolls ($3.99), flavorless octopus sashimi ($4.99) and soggy eggplant tempura ($6.99). Or one of the many "OK" dishes, like straight-ahead chicken panang curry ($13.99) – made notable by a generous inclusion of snow peas and the fact that it was served in a fancy bowl. Pad Thai ($11.99), described as "boring" by one of my guests, didn't strike the rest of us quite as harshly, but I'd be hard-pressed to find a compelling reason to order it again.
Breaking our meal's monotony was the whole snapper ($19.99), dramatically presented as is the norm, and deep fried in a fine "triple flavor" sauce in all its sweet, sour and spicy glory, as is also the norm.
Seeing three different variations of boneless duck dishes on the menu was a bit of a surprise (though not nearly as surprising as seeing beef tartare listed on there as well). After much discussion, the table's consensus was on a crispy tempura-battered duck in panang curry ($18.99). The ducky duck didn't lose any of its crisp under the heavy saucing and, dare I say, even performed some flavor acrobatics for our collective palates.
What Oudom needs to work on are the lingering effects of its dishes – making the effects less ephemeral and more lasting. It's what the everyday restaurant-goer seeks. Sending a paying guest off with a dessert of mango sticky rice ($8), not quite comprising that ideal textural balance between dense-creamy-gluey-chewy, isn't the way to go about it. Neither is serving a too-sweet apple pie ($8) with what we're sure was Cool Whip on top.
No, what made an impression instead was the sudden change in lighting that suddenly illuminated the dining room in different colors like a scene out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A button was pressed, but a HAL 9000-like hiccup in the controls caused a mesmerizing malfunction.
This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.