The pad woon sen boasts bean thread noodels stir-fried with shrimp, white and green onions, tomatoes, snow peas, carrots and baby corn. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times photos
BEYOND THAI ★ ★
4654 Church St., Skokie
beyondthaiskokie.com Prices: Appetizers, $4-$8; entrees, $8-$16; desserts, $3-$6.
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday.
Try: Spring rolls, roast duck curry, pad woon sen.
Tips: Reservations accepted. Family friendly. Free Wi-Fi connection. Weekend lunch specials. Dine in, take out, delivery. Free parking.
In a bite: With its ambitious pan-Asian menu, Beyond Thai provides a smart dining option.
KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary;
★★★ Excellent; ★★ Very Good;
★ Good; Zero stars: Poor
Updated: July 5, 2012 1:15PM
Thai cooking offers down-to-earth comfort food — the kind that has diners coming back for more. So it’s no wonder that restaurants specializing in this fare have seen rampant expansion.
In north suburban Skokie’s Beyond Thai Restaurant, locals have discovered a new venue to satisfy their craving for such classic dishes as tom yum soup, seafood curry and pad thai. (The newcomer joins two other Thai food establishments in town.)
As its name implies, the restaurant, which opened under new management last August in a space previously occupied by Thai Pavilion II, features a cosmopolitan menu whose reach goes beyond Thailand’s borders, turning out Chinese favorites including spicy Kung Pao Chicken, Japanese teriyaki and Vietnamese pho, among others.
To meet the challenge imposed by a broad menu, chefs at Beyond Thai concentrate their efforts on traditional dishes, ingredients and techniques. Prices are reasonable, with starters priced $4-$8 and entrees, $8-$16. No alcohol is served, but customers can tote their own wine or beer.
The staff is friendly and knows its stuff, so don’t hesitate to ask about an unfamiliar dish or to specify the degree of spiciness that best suits your palate.
Fried choices dominate the appetizer list, including gyoza (chicken potstickers), vegetable-and-shrimp tempura, soft shell crab, crab rangoon and stuffed calamari. But there also are steamed shrimp dumplings and a lettuce wrap filled with minced chicken, crispy rice noodles and assorted vegetables.
Especially delectable were the Thai spring rolls, cut into eight segments and shared with my dining partner. This version contained cucumber, shredded carrot, bean sprouts, tofu and scrambled eggs wrapped in a thin rice-paper wrap sprinkled with sweet plum sauce.
Agedashi tofu, a second appetizer I tried, provided an introduction to the Japanese way of serving hot tofu. A special the night of my visit, this agreeable course featured cubed firm tofu dusted with potato starch or cornstarch and then deep-fried to a light golden brown. Topped with a thin slice of radish, the dish was served in a hot dashi-mirin-soy sauce broth.
Duck appears in at least three different preparations. In the one I selected, a lively red curry made with coconut milk and pieces of roast duck mingled with fresh basil leaves, tomatoes and bell peppers. Chunks of pineapple provided a sweet tempering to the underlying spicy notes.
Beyond Thai also does a fine rendition of the classic noodle dish, pad woon sen. Cellophane noodles, a/k/a bean thread noodles, were stir-fried with shrimp, white and green onions, tomatoes, snow peas, carrots and baby corn — all a perfect mix of flavors. Pad kee moo, a spicier dish with wide rice noodles, also has its partisans.
Ginger salmon, spicy catfish, panang steak and shrimp in a clay pot are among house specialties at the 60-seat restaurant.
A slim dessert lineup featured green tea ice cream and mochi as well as a special of mango sticky rice. If you’re partial to Thai iced coffee as I am, this is the treat to order. Coffee doctored with sweetened condensed milk equals a perfect combination to satisfy any sugar craving.
Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.