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Kra Thiem Chalit's

Chalit’s Kra Thiem is a must for garlic lovers.

Stephanie Kalina-Metzger, For The Sentinel

If you’re tired of the same old restaurant routine, you might want to spice things up with a date night featuring healthy ingredients, aromatic flavors and spices that tingle the taste buds.

Thai cuisine consistently ranks among the top 10 favorites in polls, and Chalit’s aims to please. When I called on a Thursday afternoon for Friday night reservations, I failed to secure the slot I desired, so let that be a word to the wise.

The BYOB is located in a strip mall at 5103 Carlisle Pike in Hampden Township, but any “strip mall” feel is vanquished once customers step through the front door. The décor can be described as warm and peaceful. A long communal table splits the restaurant into two seating areas. A large, open spherical lighting fixture lends a soft glow to the area and serves as an attractive work of art. Tasteful mirrors and elegant artwork adorns walls in mustard hues on one side and dusky blue on another. Wooden tables and bamboo chairs lend a casual air to the overall atmosphere.

Our waitress greeted us within just a few minutes of our arrival and filled our drink orders while allowing us to peruse the menu. As a prelude to the main meal, customers can choose from among 10 “Thai tapas,” like summer rolls, spring rolls, fried calamari, chicken satay and dumplings.

We decided on the “Golden Triangle,” described on the menu as “panko wontons filled with scallops, shrimp, imitation crab and scallions, deep fried and served with sweet and spicy aioli sauce ($8). To that we added a serving of “Buddha Dumplings,” stuffed with steamed chicken and served with a mild green curry sauce and Parmesan cheese ($7).

The dumplings were pleasingly plump and flavorful. The “Golden Triangles” were also delicious, but it seemed as if only two were adequately filled, so a bit more consistency there would have been nice.

Chalit’s also offers a selection of five salads like the “Tiger Beef Salad,” with grilled sirloin, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, shaved carrots and a Thai salsa dressing, or the traditional Thai spicy salad known as “Larb” and served with fried tofu, chicken or shrimp and topped with chili lime dressing. Pair them with soups like Tom Yum chicken or Thai Wonton to warm up the insides on a cold, winter day.

Homemade curries employ coconut milk as a base. Red curry features sweet bell peppers, yellow includes potatoes and carrots, and (my favorite) green curry stars the mildly flavored eggplant. All can be paired with the diner’s choice of protein along with white or a hearty brown rice.

House specialties range from Thai BBQ chicken, to crispy catfish and Chilean sea bass, while “Hot and Spicy Wok” selections include dishes like roasted cashews and chilies and fresh ginger and mushrooms, once again paired with a diner’s choice of protein. The “Thai Stir-Fry” section lists dishes like “Eggplant and Sweet Thai Basil,” “Broccoli and White Garden Mushrooms” and “Mixed Vegetables,” with a choice of chicken, beef, pork, fried tofu, shrimp, scallops or squid.

Noodle dishes include a half-dozen choices, like “Pad Thai,” the national dish of Thailand, which showcases rice noodles sautéed in a tamarind seasoning, egg, bean sprouts, carrots and scallions, topped with crushed peanuts and fresh lime.

Also popular is the Pad Kee Mao, otherwise known as Drunken Noodle, which features flat rice noodles, sautéed in a spicy chili sauce, with paprika and a mix of vegetables, Thai chili, bean sprouts, red bell peppers and sweet Thai basil. According to lore, the dish earned its name when a drunk man began rummaging around in the kitchen for something to eat.

Rounding out the menu is a selection of fried rice with ingredients ranging from pineapple to crab.

For my main dish, I chose Green Curry chicken ($12), while my companion opted for Spicy Garlic and Black Pepper with pork ($11). Chalit’s offers “heat made to order,” customizing each dish according to the diner’s specifications. The range runs from 1-4 on the “American scale” and 5-10 on the “Thai scale.” To be on the safe side, I requested a heat level of four (American), and it was just enough to make my taste buds stand up and take notice, as well as appreciate the always full glass of water on my table.

My companion also enjoyed his selection, which I, as a garlic lover, went a bit crazy over. The dominant flavor in the Kra Thiem was the roasted garlic, which infused the entire dish comprised of pork, fresh cilantro, steamed broccoli, cabbage and carrots. I’ll most certainly be returning to order my own serving of the flavorful concoction.

When we finished dining, we were informed that banana fritters were available, but by this time we were more than satisfied, so we had to decline.

On the way out, I noticed a line was beginning to form at the door, which wasn’t surprising. Chalit’s offers customers fresh tasting, good food paired with excellent service, a fine atmosphere and fair prices. It’s no wonder the place is such a hit.

Next Up: Lunch at Duke’s Bar & Grille in Hampden Township.


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