You can visit Northeast Thailand simply by going to the South Trail in Sarasota.
Isan Thai Restaurant offers traditional Thai food of the northeast region of Thailand bordering Cambodia and Laos known as Isan. Hailing from Sisaket province, known for its traditional methods of rice farming, owner P’Koong brings her home cooking to Sarasota along with her staff of friendly Thai ladies.
Although Northeast Thai dishes can be spicy, as are many dishes from that part of the world, this restaurant’s cuisine seems lighter and packed with a bit more flavor than most other Asian restaurants. That statement has to be couched with a dining tip: order the food mild with some of the fiery sauce on the side to avoid any mouth searing.
Isan Thai, at 5758 S. Tamiami Trail, just south of Phillippi Mansion, serves lunch and dinner. Menu items are similar on either menu, with a more extensive dinner menu featuring a large number of vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Popular appetizers include Golden Triangle ($4.95) a ground chicken, potato, and Thai spice blend wrapped in rice paper and served with sweet and sour dip. Also special for a starter is Sai Aour, a home-made sausage, hearty and lightly spiced at $5.95.
Soups are a Southeast Asia dining mainstay. At Isan Thai, popular soups are the Tom Yum Goong, ($4.95), a hot and sour soup with shrimp, onion, raw mushrooms, cilantro and Thai basil, as well as the Noodle Soup with rice noodles with chicken or pork, bean sprouts and Thai basil. The latter soup is $4.95 for lunch, with a heartier portion available at dinner for $8.95 for chicken, $9.95 for pork.
The ladies of Isan offer noodle dishes including Drunken Noodles prepared with fresh Thai basil and sweet soy sauce as well as stir-fry rice dishes like Phad Phak Ruam Mit with a variety of fresh vegetables and spices, served with your choice of protein. Prices: chicken, pork, beef, tofu, or vegetable specials are $7.95 for lunch, $11.95 dinner; shrimp, scallop, or calamari is $8.95 lunch, $14.95 dinner; and a seafood combo at $10.95 lunch, $17.95 dinner.
A popular special with diners at the above prices is Pad Thai with its rice noodles sautéed with egg, bean sprouts, ground peanuts, and scallions.
Isan Thai Chef’s specials include Crispy Duck with a choice of sweet chili sauce, ginger sauce, fresh garlic chili sauce, or Panang sauce ($18.95). Try Crying Tiger, a chargrilled boneless Ribeye seasoned with roasted rice powder served with Green Curry Fried Rice and Asparagus (21.95). Popular curry dishes include Red Curry, Green Curry (with Thai eggplant) and Yellow curry prepared with vegetables and coconut milk. For the adventurous diner, try their Hungley Curry, a rich creamy spicy curry prepared with fresh ginger and cubed pork ($12.95) or Kao Soi, a Northern style creamy sweet curry made with crispy egg noodles, fresh shallots, and cilantro with your choice of protein.
Seafood offerings include Bplaa Rad Prik, Red Snapper (whole or filet) with a basil chili sauce, served with steamed vegetables and rice. Ever popular is Amazing Salmon, pan fried salmon filet served with a peanut sauce, cabbage, and Tum Yum Fried Rice.
With most of the world’s jasmine rice harvested in Thailand, rice dishes are featured at Isan Thai. Many of the chef’s dinner specials include a hearty helping of the fragrant rice.
Isan Thai caters to vegetarians with a medley of appetizer, salad, and entrée courses.
Isan Thai has one of the most extensive beer menus seen outside of a specialty brew pub. Plan to sip your way across the world, with Thai, Japanese, Belgium, and other brews, a long list of craft beers also from around the world, plus more traditional lagers. There is also a large wine list.
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. A newly expanded dining area with hand carved tables can accommodate larger parties. Dinner is served from Noon until to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Reservations are strongly recommended. More information about the restaurant is available at www.isanthairestaurant.com or by calling 941-923-1232.