Thai One On is elegant but affordable White tablecloths are nice, but our party was itchin’ for the first al fresco meal of the season. So we migrated out to the patio in front of Thai One On, the eatery occupying the former Tavola di Tosa space north of the heart of Broad Ripple. The al fresco idea made sense until the sun closed up shop and the temp sank to 50 degrees. Good thing Thai food has the power to warm you from within, on a scale of one to 10, to be exact. Joe’s Thai Basil ($11.95) is a porky mix of veggies served with a bowl of blinding-white jasmine rice We tested our handsome waiter Paul early on. Dad asked if he could eliminate the broccoli from the fried rice. This is a guy who grimaces with his whole body at the mention of the B word. “Anything is possible,” Paul said, with gallant largesse. “Anything can be done.”
“Can I have a hamburger?” Albert asked.
“We ground our own beef,” Paul said, “but we do try to stick to the menu.”
Good thing Albert was just joshing.
Paul’s polish was impressive for a restaurant only open for a month, though owner Sam Sutchaleo’s name is familiar to Avon diners, where his original Thai One On was hatched. Sutchaleo is known for his love of puns. Thus, our appetizer of choice: the Thai It Together Combo, complete with two rice paper spring rolls, two crispy, slender egg rolls, two steak strips on sticks and two moist, still slightly pink-on-the-inside chicken satay, on a bed of noodles, for $13.95, served on a smart triangular plate.
Four dazzling sauces accompanied the combo: red pepper oil, a soy-and-ginger-based sauce known as Sam’s sauce, a fairly thin peanut-y sauce and a Barbie-pink sweet and sour concoction. We beseeched Paul to let us keep the sauces for dipping other things long after we’d demolished the appetizer.
The reason to fall in love with Thai food is the cleanliness of its flavors: basil, coconut, ginger, garlic, peanuts, peppers. Combine these with the building blocks of tofu or meat and rice or noodles and colorful vegetables and you’ve got a meal that respects its ingredients, where each ingredient is taste-able. Albert’s Drunken Noodle dish ($10.95) was a case in point. Stir-fried rice noodles, which sweetened and softened with cooking, combine happily with egg, carrots and bamboo shoots. Albert dialed his heat-o-meter to four, and no fire trucks were called.
Joy’s Pad Thai — the national dish of Thailand — ($10.95) was a pleasantly oil-moist mix of scallions, skinny noodles, eggs, finely ground peanuts, her meat of choice (chicken) and sprouts. Joe’s Thai Basil ($11.95), spiced up to a five, was a porky mix of veggies served with a bowl of blinding-white jasmine rice. Spoiled by the Vietnamese restaurant custom of piling heaps of basil fronds on a side plate, I missed the stronger presence of basil in my bite of his Thai Basil.
By far the most glamorous dish at Thai One On was my own Thai Massamun Curry in soup form ($10.95). Here was a curry that was … sensuous. Or perhaps it was me, having recently finished Joyce Carol Oates’ fictional biography of Marilyn Monroe, with vampiness, tragedy and silk on the brain. Subtract the tragic part, and you get a sense of the sexuality of this dish. The sauce was heavy on the coconut milk and richer than it looked. I took my curry cranked to the semi-daring spice level of eight — better than a sweater on a cool spring night. Chunks of chicken, onion, whole peanuts and lattice-edged potatoes floated about. I was the last one to finish my meal, wishing to prolong curry-induced pleasure.
Some of the Thai-specific dishes on the menu include the Larb Talay, a seafood salad with squid and octopus or mussels; Goong Prik Thai, black tiger shrimp with lemongrass and Thai chilies; and Tom Kha Gai, coconut chicken soup with lime leaves and ginger. Lunch dishes range from $5.95 to $6.95 and include soup. Nearly all dishes can be made vegetarian, in keeping with our server’s have-it-your-way philosophy.
After a little snafu with our bill accidentally getting doubled — the place is so efficient that not one, but two servers rang us up — we took our doggie bags and disappeared into the night. If you’re looking for elegant but affordable Thai, and five-star service, Thai One On will do the trick.
Thai One On 6523 Ferguson St. 202-0193 Monday-Thursday, 11-11 Friday-Saturday, 11-1 Sunday, 11-8 Food: 4 stars Atmosphere: 4 stars Service: 5 stars