Malay may be gone, but Thai popular

[attach]5067[/attach]The name — Bow Thai — is a little bit of fun; I hoped for equal creativity on the menu. But this little restaurant in The Beach proves to be hit and miss.

The sign outside proclaims ‘authentic Thai and Malay cuisine’ and here’s our first disappointment. The Malay food is gone as it proved unsuccessful with Canadian customers.

The appetizer plate ($14.95) seems a good way to sample a number of dishes — spring rolls, fresh rolls, mango salad, shrimp satay sticks, mounds of fried calamari and samosas. These last seem somewhat anomalous — but perhaps they’re a holdover from the Malaysian menu. Whatever their origin, we don’t like them — too much dough, not enough filling, and bland.

The spring rolls don’t get an enthusiastic response either, they’re simply too mundane and the filling too boring. And the calamari has so much batter, my guest actually resorts to peeling it off so she can taste the squid.

But the cold roll is beautiful — filled with fresh greens, coriander and carrots, it’s crisp, fresh and delicious with the sweet Thai dipping sauce.

Two skewers of shrimp and pineapple, smothered in a tangy marinade, also get the thumbs up, though the pineapple pieces are small enough to be individual tidbits from a can. And the mango salad, sprinkled with cashews, is nearly all mango with red peppers and only a few red onions, and its dressing absolute perfection. This is a dish I always order in Thai restaurants, and invariably, I am disappointed. Not so here.

My guest wants more shrimp so, with some Jasmine rice ($1.50), we order cashew shrimp. Orange segments, red and green peppers, flower-cut carrots, onions, and large, meaty shrimps nest in a sweet chilli sauce ($10.95). The vegetables are crisp and the sauce is citrusy sweet. Best of all, there’s lots of cashews. When the waitress tries to remove the nearly empty plate, I stop her — twice — I want that last bit of sauce with my rice.

Thai cuisine offers wonderful vegetarian dishes so we decide to try Purple Garden, partly because the name intrigues us. Fat wedges of Chinese eggplant, flower cut slices of carrot, red and green peppers and onions come in a rich chilli sauce ($8.95). It’s so good, my guest keeps going back for more, laughing, “I’m having eggplant for dessert.”

But we do order a dessert. The waitress recommends the mango sticky rice ($5.95), suggesting the fried bananas are best left for another day since “the oil is being changed tomorrow.” You have to appreciate that level of honesty.

My guest is not a fan of coconut, the dominant flavour in the rice. I like it. So we make a deal — she eats the slices of fresh mango and the creamy rice pudding is all mine.

The waitress is helpful and knowledgeable and while some dishes are really good, others don’t hit the mark. On the other hand, you can’t beat the prices and I notice a steady flow of customers.

Bow Thai, 1970 Queen St. East, 416-694-8424. [url][/url]