Thailand: Sala Thai

Sala Thai
36 S Fair Oaks Ave
Madison, WI 53714

L and I had long meant to head to Madison’s east side and sample some of the famous curries at The Corner Store on Willy Street, but never had the opportunity. But when I found out that the shop’s owners had opened a full-service Thai restaurant, we had to give it a shot.

Sala Thai is located in an unsuspecting location, a remodeled building tucked between a 50s-style diner and a residential street. Still, the restaurant manages a fine ambiance with intricate Thai wood decorations and carvings, plenty of artwork, and a large, well-lit dining room. From reviews we read previously, service was supposedly notoriously slow, but we found the exact opposite. This may have been because the waitstaff was really on its game, or they had little to care about at 4PM on a Friday. We’ll never know unless we make a return trip, but our small meal was definitely enough to bring us back if we ever again find ourselves in the area.

L had a bowl of the delicious Tom Yum soup. The unsuspecting dish packed a great deal of flavor (provided mostly by lemongrass and ginger), mushrooms, and a good amount of heat. The soup’s broth was thin enough to really put the focus on the big ingredients (although it would have helped if it had a “don’t eat the ginger” sign). For $5.95, it was a great afternoon snack, one we wish we had the recipe for to try to make it at home.

I (M) had one of my classic favorites, Panang Curry. I’ve been frustrated recently by a number of Thai restaurants that pass off glorified soups as curries, sacrificing the hearty thickness of the curry in favor of thinner, more “healthy” curries. But just as advertised, Sala Thai did not disappoint. Thick and full of coconut cream, the curry mixed together carrots and other vegetables with well-prepared chicken (another recent sticking point of Thai restaurants with me) in a sauce that, thick and tasty as it was, could have used a few more peanuts (though I do like peanuts far more than most). At $7.95, the curry was comparably priced in comparison to other Thai restaurants in the city, and didn’t hurt itself with the free large rice.

Final verdict: good food, excellent curries, quick service, good decor, and apparently a brisk takeout business. We wish them well, and will be back should the opportunity present itself.

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