As I've said a few times before, I don't eat as much Asian food when I'm on the road as I'd like. Many of the places I've eaten in literally soak their food in Mono-sodium Glutamate, and MSG and I don't get along very well. So, it's with a little trepidation that I seek out a good Chinese or Thai place while I'm on the road. However, this time in Kansas City I found a very good little Thai restaurant - Thai Place in suburban Shawnee Mission (see map).
Thai Place is owned by the Liberda family, whose mother, Ann, founded Thai Place in the 1991. Ann came over from Thailand in the mid-70's and initially worked as a beautician after she came to the U.S. Ann then ended up working in a restaurant called Bangkok Pavilion in Overland Park. She was a sharp looking, sassy woman who interacted with the customers with ease.
Ann left Bangkok Pavilion in 1990 and a year later she opened the original Thai Place restaurant in Overland Park. Helped by her sons Michael and Ted (who is the head chef for all the Thai Place restaurants), and daughter, Chiara, Ann Liberda's empire has now risen to five locations across the Kansas City metro area. A lot of the local's call it the best Thai food in town.
The original Thai Place is situated in a strip mall on the south side of Sante Fe Road in Shawnee Mission. It's set back from the street, so - of course - I drove by it the first time I went there. Once I figured out that I'd gone too far, I called up On-Star for turn-by-turn navigation and the service took me right to the place. Since then, I've figured out that I've got the turn-by-turn navigation, I may as well use it.
The interior of Thai Place is very cozy, white linen table cloths are on the tables, there's Thai artwork on the walls, the light fixtures are interesting to look at and there's a small area toward the back of the restaurant. I was seated in a booth and was given a menu to look through. One of the things Thai Place prides itself on is the eclectic and unusual Thai food they have to offer. After he graduated from culinary school about 10 years ago, Ted Liberda has spent a number of years researching authentic Thai foods to add to the menu.
Now, I'm not a very adventurous guy when it comes to Thai food, but some of the things they had on the menu were very interesting. They had four different types of curry dishes that I normally don't see on menus at other Thai restaurants. They had 16 different types of seafood stir fry, including a squid-jalapeno dish, along with a flash fried Chilean sea bass topped with Thai Place's famous spicy Sam Rod sauce.
They also featured vegetarian dishes, along with regular rice and noodle entrees, salads, soups and appetizers. But I was looking for something like my old stand-by - spicy basil beef. But - oh man - they had some other interesting beef stir-fry dishes, too. They had a tantalizing jalapeno beef stir fry - beef stir fried with jalapeno chunks and onions. Thai Place also featured a beef mushroom stir fry with three different types of mushrooms and scallions. (I have GOT to quit writing this blog on an empty stomach!) And they had a garlic beef with roasted garlic, scallions, and white pepper all served over chopped cabbage. Oh boy!!!
But it got down to choosing between the Ginger Beef (ginger, bell peppers, onions and fresh mushrooms), or the Beef Scallions (scallions, onions and dried chili peppers). When my waiter came back to take my order, I told him I was torn between the two. He said, "If you wish, we can combine the two." He suggested getting the Ginger Beef and adding the scallions and dried chili pepper. I asked if he could also have the chef sprinkle some white pepper on the top and he said it would be no problem. He also wanted to know if I wanted fried rice or steamed rice. I went with the fried rice.
It wasn't long - less than 15 minutes - before my food showed up. It was a heaping plate of beef and vegetable stir fry served with a healthy side of fried rice. I eagerly devoured a couple slices of beef and the taste was, well, it was remarkable. The vegetables were perfectly cooked, the dish was a potpourri of taste sensations and although it was a little spicy, it didn't detract from the overall taste of the food. In a word, the food was outstanding.
I don't know what it is about Thai food, but it's so good that I usually end up over-eating each time I go. It could be the ginger, it could be the sauce, it could be some mind-numbing drug from Southeast Asia they incorporate into the food. Whatever it is, it's great. And so addictive. Each time I look at all the food they bring out and I think, "There's no friggin' way I'm going to eat all of this." But each time, I do.
I didn't have any alcohol with my meal and it still ended up being $18 bucks before tip. While I thought the prices at Thai Place were a little high, it was still a great meal. In a city where steak and barbecue rule, I'm glad that I was able to find a restaurant like Thai Place. They have so many things to choose from on their menu, I'll be able to go back time and time again and try any one of the wonderful and interesting food Ted Liberda's come up with.