Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Star Anise Thai Cuisine

A friend suggested lunch at Star Anise Thai Cuisine. She's been there a couple of times and thought the food was pretty good. Hate to say it but she wasn't building up any confidence in me about the place. I've seen the restaurant in the Renaissance Mall but it never struck me as anything more than a Spices Thai Cafe knock-off. Don't get me wrong, I like Spices for a quick lunch but have yet to find another similar styled restaurant that is as good as Spices. But then if you really want good Thai food, there's no beating Sab-E-Lee.

We were the first to arrive for lunch. The place is very clean, white table clothes and all. As we were being led to our table by the window, we noticed a little boy playing with one of those Swiffer dusters. I think he was the waitress' son. The little boy was so cute, obviously trying his best to help mom and dad.

I don't recall any music in the background and quite frankly, I prefer no music anyway. The lunch menu looks to be the typical fair, pick a dish and choose your meat. My friend ordered her usual Panaeng Curry with chicken. She said the sauce is very good. I was torn between the spicy fried rice and the Spicy Khee Mao Noodles but ultimately went with the spicy noodles (I am so predictable). We had a choice of house salad and Tom Yum soup. I chose the soup, my friend decided on the salad. I forgot to take pictures of both but neither really stood out for me. The soup was similar in taste to the Tom Yum soup from Spices except it had more of a seafood flavor. The salad looked a little like cole slaw. And hindsight, they certainly were indications of what's to come.

Panaeng Curry with Chicken

The Panaeng Curry, according to my friend, was just as good as last time. She ordered a spiciness "1" (that's basically no heat). I liked the use of green beans and not the usual large chunks of green bell pepper I've seen in other restaurants. I also liked the fact that they only used red bell peppers. I didn't taste the dish but my friend enjoyed her meal very much.

When my Spicy Khee Mao Noodle with Beef was put in front of me, I knew just by looking at it that I was going to be disappointed.

Spicy Khee Mao Noodle with Beef

Those 2 burnt-looking fried wonton thingy in the upper left hand were Curry Puffs, supposedly stuffed with curry mashed potatoes, peas and carrots. It was not very good. I think I would have preferred a crispy spring roll. The dipping sauce is the standard plum sweet sauce.

The noodles were broken into small pieces and the only sign of "wok hay" was on the eggs. The noodles were cooked fine and weren't clumpy, which was good. Some pieces of the beef were tender but there were a few rather dry pieces, but not bad but lacked any real flavor. I liked the fact that my dish only had red bell peppers (again, no green bell peppers is always a plus for me).

So far, you would think this was a not-so-bad dish. But what pushed it down to a sub-par dish was the void of flavors other than the smidgen heat, which wasn't even that much for a "medium" heat order. I would rate the heat more of a mild 3 (scale of 1-10). I think a touch of soy sauce and a bit more hot sauce would have improved the flavor.

Service was very efficient, and the servers were pleasant. Cost for our meal was a little over $18, without tip, in line with other local Thai restaurants of similar nature. By the time we left, around noon, the restaurant was starting to fill up. Overall, Star Anise offers a run-of-the-mill, Americanized Thai lunch menu that probably satisfies your average dinners. But for me, I think I'll stick with my usuals.

Star Anise Thai Cuisine
8935 Towne Center Drive #115
San Diego, CA 92122
Tel : +1 858 535 1668
Fax : +1 858 452 5899
Lunch Mon - Fri 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Sat - Sun 11:30 AM - 3:30 PM
Dinner Sun - Thu 5:00 PM - 9:30 PM
Fri - Sat 5:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Postscript: I forgot to mention that on the way out, I noticed several of the other diners were enjoying the Panaeng Curry. You know how some restaurants do one type of dish well and the others so-so? Maybe Star Anise whips up a mean Panaeng Curry?


Donny said...

That was the most boring post I've read on your blog in a while. Guess your meal really was boring, huh? ;-)

Barefoot Plumies said...

Hi Donny, sorry the post was a snoozer but yeah, the meal was lackluster at best. I'll try to spice it up for you on the next post.