Chow, Baby: Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Cutting the Tension with a Fork

Chow, Baby adores its friends Smiley and Mr. B., but they do have one flaw. Feature, sorry, Chow, Baby meant to say “feature”: They’re marvelous legmen, with a talent for spotting nifty new restaurants. This was a huge plus for Chow, Baby when the boys were vetting places up near Grapevine, because the only thing Chow, Baby hates more than driving to Grapevine is driving to Grapevine and having a not-worth-the-hassle meal. But now that they’ve relocated to downtown Fort Worth, it’s as if bwah-ha-ha the servants have become the master. Chow, Baby doesn’t like it when tables turn.
Take, for example, Thai Tina’s (703 N. Henderson St.). This has been on Chow, Baby’s Places to Eat list almost since the moment it opened, back in March. Not just because it’s Thai, one of Chow, Baby’s fave cuisines, but because the original Thai Tina’s, up in Watauga, is one of Chow, Baby’s fave Thai restaurants. So one day last week a confident Chow, Baby collected its boys and headed over … but things went horribly wrong from the moment we entered the surprisingly lovely space (it used to be a mediocre-Italian kitschfest named Tony’s).
First of all, Tina herself enthusiastically greeted her regulars at the door. Her regulars? Yes, it turns out that the guys have been here before. Several times. They even knew where the bathroom was. They knew the multi-page line-up of soups, salads, curries, fried rices, and sautés inside out; they placed their appetizer orders before the newbie had even opened its menu, resulting in a panicked “um um um um sampler platter, please” ($9.95). This turned out to be such a great choice that Chow, Baby pretended it was deliberate: half a dozen crab rangoons with actual crabmeat in them (is that allowed?); garden-fresh spring roll segments topped with real shrimp; slim, flaky cilantro rolls; and a trio of flaky chicken wonton purses. Magical faerie dust came in the form of a mild-heat peanut sauce and a complex-as-wine sweet ’n’ sour.
The whole lunch went like that: The guys have placed their order and the server is staring expectantly at Chow, Baby, who is still “am I in a pineapple mood or a mango mood? … ooh, salmon in avocado panang sauce … or should I do the classic coconut soup and pad thai …” turn the page “… ooh, roasted duck, Tina did great duck up in Watauga … .” Under social pressure, Chow, Baby recklessly pointed to the sautéed chicken in peanut sauce ($7.95), stir-fried with broccoli, spinach, and bean sprouts. Hah, another great shot in the dark: a Thai bull’s-eye, even. The men graciously shared their entrée salads, a perky spring roll salad ($9.95) with grilled pork on a bed of romaine, mint, cucumber, and bean sprouts; and the slap-the-taste-buds yum nur ($10.95), with lime-scented grilled beef tossed with chili peppers and onions.
For dessert the men instantly recommended the sweet-sticky rice with mango ($4.95), which, jeez, Chow, Baby would have ordered anyway, as that’s one of the world’s greatest meal finales, just give me one tiny second to see what else is there. (Not much; stick with the mango.) Good thing Chow, Baby never acts like a know-it-all, because they’re really irritating. Even when they’re right about what a marvelous find the new Thai Tina’s is.
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