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Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013

The New Mai Thai

Redesigned menu for Thai food lovers

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The new Mai Thai that opened in July is an entirely cheerful place. Building owner Julilly Kohler has installed full-length windows along the Brady Street sidewalk and a beautiful hardwood floor inside. New business owners Eric Grethe and Meghan Ongie have sweetly redecorated the interior and redesigned the menu. There’s more décor and menu-tweaking ahead, but what they’ve accomplished so far is exciting.

Mai Thai seems especially ripe for discovery by a new generation of Thai food lovers. The owners, young themselves, have made a comfortably interesting place for casual and dress-up dining. The bar and restaurant are good settings for conversation, romance, meetings or hanging with friends. Each time I’ve visited, whether seated inside or enjoying a sidewalk table, I’ve found the atmosphere easy, the staff helpful and charming, the food and drink delicious and the price right.

The great Tuesday-Thursday lunch special ($8.95) includes an appetizer, a cup of soup and an entrée. Choose between two appetizers: crab Rangoon or a crispy summer roll, both thick and delicious. Choose from three soups: classic pho, tart tom yum with lemongrass and lime juice, or the hearty tom kha with chicken or tofu, straw mushrooms, coconut milk, galangal and hot spices. Entrée choices include noodle dishes (pud thai, pud see ew, basil noodles), curries (red, yellow, green, massamun, panang), stir fries (peanut sauce, cashew, garlic, sweet basil, oyster delight) or fried rice.

All recipes are the chef’s, a native of northern Thailand where people like it hot. Select your degree of spiciness on a scale from 0-4. The excellent pud see ew (wide rice noodles with broccoli and eggs in sweet soy sauce) and delicious massamun curry (coconut milk broth with potatoes, onions and roasted peanuts) have a good bite at level 1.

During happy hour (Tuesday-Thursday, 3-6 p.m.), appetizers are half price and drinks are two for one. From an expanded appetizer list, my friends and I chose crab Rangoon, tempura, shrimp spring rolls and triangle curry puffs. The Rangoon was again thick with sweet meat. The handsome spring rolls came with a light cucumber sauce and tasted fresh. The curry puffs with spicy peanut sauce were favorites. For drinks, we tried the sweet Mai Thai, the sweeter Pattaya, the fruity Wiki Wacki Woo and the Thai Coffee Gaffe, all dreamy, all generously poured. Many drinks, including wines, beers, sake, martinis and “local contributions from the Foundation Tiki Bar” are offered.

The menu expands again for dinner: satay, salads and larb dishes join the list. House specialties ($13-$16) are the Sea Connection, a mix of chicken, pork, beef, calamari and shrimp with vegetables and pepper sauce; and Volcano chicken, tofu, duck or shrimp grilled and served sizzling on a bed of stir-fried vegetables with plum sauce. Weekend specials vary but can include a Friday fish fry and a Saturday “Duck Day.” Everything I’ve had was made with care.

 

Mai Thai

1230 E. Brady Street.

$$

414-810-3386

414-763-1925 (delivery)

taifoodmilwaukee.com

Closed Mondays

Handicap accessible: yes