Duck choo chee ($15.95) is another two-banger, but the red curry is buffered with coconut milk, and the distinguishing feature is a lot of kaffir-lime leaves — the chefs shred them for extra citrus oil. Mine could have used a little more duck meat, but this is such a great curry that snow peas, squash, English peas, onion, crinkle-cut carrots, and even fresh winter tomato work as foils and filler. "Poo Pad Pong-Garee" ($18.95) — if you don't want to say this in front of your date, point to H8 — has no silhouettes and all the subtleties of the seafood-rice soup. There's a hacked up soft-shell crab, crab claws, and several shrimp in a very mild curry that lets all the different seafood flavors come through.
The only disappointment — and a mild one — was the steamed rice ($1). I expect a little more aroma from Thai jasmine rice. Of course, once the choo-chee curry was added, it was fine. A wine list is available, but this really is beer food. Singha ($4.25) is a fine malty pilsner with a handsome lion on the label. Chang beer ($4.25), with the elephant label, is stronger, maltier, with a bitter finish. Both Thai beers are served in signature glasses, and the Chang glass — concave like the cooling towers of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant — shows off a superior foamy head, too. Homemade limeade ($3.50) is a refreshing soda drink.
In a real departure from most Thai restaurants, which have few desserts, Thaitation offers nine. Mango with sticky rice ($7.95) is a familiar favorite, with a reasonably ripe mango and rice thickened with coconut milk. The real knockout is sticky-rice mousse with mango ($7.50). It comes as a little square of fluffy coconut mousse with bits of rice that add a texture similar to tapioca pudding, plus chunks of mango. Fried ice cream ($9.95) is lovely: vanilla with a thin crust glazed with honey and studded with sesame seeds. Thaitation crispy mango rolls ($7.50) are mango-rice spring rolls with a coconut dip.
All my favorite Thai desserts are of the fusion persuasion, but then again, most famous Thai dishes are fusion food. Only when you encounter something like "Old Lady Spicy Chicken" do you think it might be pure Thai, and even then the chili peppers are an obvious post-1492 substitute for some native hot spice.
Service at Thaitation is excellent. The room is square with a high ceiling, big café windows, bright yellow walls with gorgeous Thai folk-art pieces, a quarry tile floor, wood wainscoting, and granite-look laminate tables. The visuals don't clash, but they do echo sound, so it gets a little loud. The current crowd runs to young couples. I figure them for already coupled pretty well, since you can't attractively eat stew. I suppose you could just keep ordering appetizers all night, though. I could. A couple of Changs, sticky-rice mousse, and then onto somewhere a little quieter?
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.