Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Spicy but not overpowering, Lanna Thai Cuisine’s fare is just right.
Lanna Thai Cuisine & Steakhouse
Fish cakes $5.25
Hot and spicy glass noodle salad $8.50
Spicy basil tofu $8.25
Bangkok Burn

Things are more than tasty at Lanna Thai Cuisine & Steakhouse — they’re downright hot.


Lanna Thai Cuisine & Steakhouse

2349 W Pioneer Pkwy, Pantego. 817-459-4774. Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm, 5-9:30pm. Sat 11am-10pm. Closed Sun.

wner Lanna Logt has presided over her Lanna Thai Cuisine & Steakhouse for about five months now on an uncrowded stretch of Pioneer Parkway in Pantego, the town right next to Arlington. Area Thai lovers who pride themselves on suffering through the intense chiles and spices that the food is famous for have picked up the gauntlet of Logt’s challenge: For most items, she has a heat indicator of “mild” (one star), “medium” (two stars), “hot” (three stars), and “fire!” (four stars).

“Some customers, they demand seven stars,” marvels Logt, who makes a point of personally visiting most tables to make sure everything’s right. “And then they walk out of here like this ... .” She then proceeds to do an impression — eyes bugged, arms stiff, gait staggered — of a patron zombified by Thai pepper overload.

On a recent trip to Lanna Thai Cuisine, the soup and entrées were ordered at a safe (and aptly designated) “hot” level. All that fire couldn’t obscure the marvelous layers of flavor with which this restaurant endowed everything.

The afternoon started with a cup of Lanna’s special hot-and-sour fish soup. It was the first clue to what seems to be the ruling ethos here, one that should fit in well with the American penchant for super-sizing: Bigger is better. Bigger not just in portion size, but in the size of each ingredient in the serving. A Lanna “cup” would be called a smallish bowl in other digs, and there was barely enough room in it for the tender tilapia nuggets, grilled ’til the edges were crisp, as well as tomato chunks and slippery straw mushroom caps. The broth, lovely swirls of deep brown and red dotted with pepper seeds, was a spiky-soothing blend of chile, lime, and lemon grass. The only complaint: The fish, tomato, and mushroom pieces were so bulky there wasn’t enough actual liquid.

Next came the fish cakes, four brown rounds that resembled all-veggie burger patties but with one crucial difference: These sweethearts had flavor to spare. The patties were created with ground white fish, green beans, green onions, and pieces of lime leaves, everything fried to the edge of crispness. The cakes were tender and slightly, pleasantly oily. Fish cakes are often served with a stock-based dipping sauce, but Lanna adds the ginger-lemongrass liquid into the mash to give it a knockout flavor of cool sweetness. A mixed salad of cubed cucumber and sliced onion and bell pepper with cilantro provided the right crunchy counterpoint.

The hot and spicy glass noodle salad was another monster platter that could make two meals for even a binge eater. Built on a foundation of bright green romaine leaves was a curved terrain of medium-sized tail-on shrimp, thick pieces of white-meat chicken breast, and bite-sized wedges of onion and tomato wrapped in the vermicelli-like tentacles of soybean glass (that is, “clear”) thread noodles. The chicken wasn’t even advertised as an ingredient on the menu, but there were no protests about its surprise guest-star appearance. The lime flavor in the vinaigrette sauce was luckily stronger than the cloying sweetness that so often dominates such dressings, and those ever-present chile seeds kept a surface level of heat at a steady, flirty glow.

For anyone who needs proof that the soybean curd known as tofu can be a lot more than its populist reputation as some kind of left-wing, tree-hugger, health-Nazi nutritional staple, try Lanna’s spicy basil tofu and vegetables. The plate arrived trailing the unmistakable odor of fresh basil, a guaranteed Pavlovian trigger for some diners. The dish used very firm tofu rather than the silken stuff that breaks apart into dispiriting pulpy mush when brushed with fork tines, and just as tofu is famous for, it assumed the full savory basil flavor while maintaining its soft cheese-like density. Snappy, thick green beans and crunchy carrots cut up into those jagged ninja-blade shapes accompanied. This was the one dish we ordered with the four-star (“fire”) level of spiciness, and while the sinuses did enjoy a thorough clearing-out during the meal, it didn’t seem as daunting as the owner’s warning. Which is not to say that Lanna Thai Cuisine doesn’t keep the tummy fires burning. Spicy food lovers, pull out your markers and check Pantego on the North Texas map as a new mecca for great, blazing Thai.

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