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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thai-namite: A Great Fit for Brady Street

Moderately priced Asian fusion in a fun setting

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The fusion trend for Asian cuisine is going strong in Milwaukee. Fortune Chinese Restaurant and Lucky Liu’s both have a sushi bar while Kyoto, a Japanese restaurant, serves some Chinese dishes. Continuing this trend is the new Thai-namite, which offers Thai fare and a sushi bar.

Thai-namite, located in a recently renovated building on Brady Street, features a new interior (though the name of a previous occupant, the Astor Market, appears at the entryway). Cool-green walls and jet-black tabletops enhance the modern look. All of the tables are near large windows, and the sushi bar sits in the center.

The menu, which is large considering the smaller size of the restaurant, meanders between Thai and Japanese. The Japanese fare consists of sushi, sashimi, a few appetizers and two soups. The entrees are all of the Thai variety.

Among the starters, crispy squid ($6) falls right in the middle. The scored pieces of squid in a light flour batter could almost pass as tempura. Dip them in the sweet plum sauce. Gyoza ($5), lightly fried pork dumplings with a thin dough wrapper, are just right. These little gems, pure Japanese in style, are served with a sweetened soy sauce. Fish cakes ($6), on the other hand, are pure Thai. The small cakes have their definitive springy texture, and a condiment of cucumber, red onion and peanuts with sweet vinegar comes on the side. The vegetarian pair of spring rolls ($3) offers fresh rice paper sheets filled with tofu, a bit of fried egg, rice noodles and some carrot. But it is the hint of fresh coconut that makes these special.

The Thai items tend to be sweeter rather than hot and spicy—gentle Thai, for the most part—but the spicy squid salad ($7) manages to be both. Tender pieces of squid with onions, scallions, fresh mint and a sauce of sweet shrimp with lemongrass come with just enough chile pepper to qualify as spicy. A mound of crispy rice noodles arrives on the side. It’s a nice dish, though it’s sweeter than the normal squid salad. Cucumber salad ($3) is nice, simple Japanese fare, thin pieces of cucumber with slivers of red radish and sweet vinegar.

Among the soups is the Thai staple of tom yum shrimp ($4). Yummy it is, with shrimp in a broth that is tart with lime juice and seasoned with lemongrass and other spices. There are straw mushrooms and chopped scallions, but the best addition is fresh tomato that revels in the broth. All that is missing is a bit of galangal.

The sushi selection, featuring the usual cast of seafood, is a good one. Some of the specialty maki sushis have local names like the Astor, Brady and Milwaukee rolls. Those who choose to boycott the increasingly over-fished bluefin tuna will find many other options. Several of the rolls use what is described as super white tuna. It is found in the Oreo roll ($9), a black and white version in which the green seaweed wrapper is hidden because it is a reverse roll. The white tuna is rolled with cooked shiitake mushrooms while the outer rice is dusted with black tobiko. The mushrooms dominate, while the tobiko adds more crunch than flavor.

Thai entrees offer the typical noodle dishes, curries and volcano chicken. Thai-style ribs ($12) are pork ribs in a sweet Thai barbecue sauce with hints of garlic. The tasty ribs are served over steamed asparagus.

One specialty is Thai-namite curry ($12), with chunks of beef and potato, onion and whole cashews in a mild Massaman curry sauce (Massaman curry comes from the south of Thailand). It is served with triangles of roti, a flatbread made for dipping in the curry sauce. While the potatoes and carrots are properly cooked, the beef simply cannot overcome its toughness—the only flaw in this nice curry.

A better choice is the rad nar ($9), a dish of wide noodles with onion, Chinese broccoli, a choice of meat, and gravy sauce. White meat chicken proves much wiser than the beef. Tiny pieces of fried egg make the gravy rise above the versions found in most restaurants.

The neighborhood appears to be receptive to Thai-namite. And the Japanese and Thai items seem equal in popularity. The service is good enough and the kitchen and sushi bar are efficient. Alcoholic beverages are available, though they are limited to a very basic selection of beer, wine and sake. This is the type of place that works so well on Brady Street. The food is good enough, the prices are moderate and it’s just a fun place to people-watch.

Thai-namite

932 E. Brady St.

(414) 837-6280

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Credit Cards: MC, VS

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