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Chi Thai - Far Out

5577 N. Hamilton Rd. Columbus, OH 43230 (614) 471-8988

When we think of Chinese food, we can easily identify with our own nearby quick-fix, right off the intersection of ordinary road and bland avenue. They are usually littered with photos that never match the actual dishes, and more mediocre choices than you find at a garage sale. One thing is for sure can sweet n’ sour anything all day, but if it’s bad, it’s just bad. Steven Yee knew this stereotype all too well and took it to heart when designing ChiThai. His exceptional and innovative combination of the best cuisine from China and Thailand will rock your world. While we’re too busy settling for that near-fatal “Something” Express drive-by to cure the craving, Yee is busy in the kitchen honing his craft. Simply and bodly put, ChiThai is without doubt one of the finest Asian dining experiences to be found in all of Columbus, Ohio.

While too many choices may get in a diner’s way, we at C couldn’t get enough at ChiThai. Yes, there are about a zillion options, but after our tasting, that quickly proved to be a giant advantage, as many more returns are in our future. Sure they have a delicious compliment of Spring Rolls, Spare Ribs and Crab Rangoon for your appetizer starters, but we opted to begin our journey straying from the norm and ordering the Coconut Shrimp Puffs. The lightly battered coconut dough provided a subtle sweetness and the ground peanuts in a chili Thai sauce complimented it perfectly. And what would a trip to one of the best Asian restaurants in town be without the Szechuan Dumplings! A generous supply of pork and veggies wedged themselves inside these flavor pockets, with a spicy dripping of Szechuan sauce clinging to each bite. It was a taste balance of which both the Yin and Yang would approve. For larger parties, ask Yee to create a sampler platter of your favorites, including the Bamboo Shrimp with a house plum sauce and, of course, minced chicken lettuce wraps.

Here at ChiThai, the problem is also the solution. When it comes time for your entrée selection, you can go with timeless Chinese classics or the hidden gems of culinary artwork from Thailand. Ah, the beauty of family style! From the Chinese menu, let’s stray from the usual General Tso’s and dig a little deeper. Go outside the dinner box labeled “routine,” and opt for the Grand Manier Shrimp. Expect Jumbo Prawns only lightly battered to show off their potency and drizzled with a sensual Grand Manier glaze. It was so good that it almost disrupted the flow of the tasting, as the other entrees had yet to be discovered. But alas, we fought through the temptation of polishing off the glorious shrimp dish and moved on to the Mandarin Pork Tenderloin. Only Yee can make lightly seared pork and chef’s mandarin sauce dance together like this. The lean, moist tenderloin can also be done Hunan style with chef’s secret sauce on a bed of sautéed onions.

As with every one of these dining features we do, getting full is simply not an option. The best was yet to come. When we got to the Thai side of the menu, we stopped looking and asked Steven Yee to bring us what he thought were his best dishes. He sort of laughed a little (as if to say the task was unrealistic), and came back shortly with two dynamite powerhouses starting with Avocado Chicken. Wow, was this a meal! Let me assure you that even if avocadoes are not your thing, you will appreciate and enjoy this treat. The aroma of this plate was traceable from the kitchen before it even made its entrance into the dining room, and the experts agreed that it was the best thing we had tried up to this point. The green beans were steamed to perfection and the chicken could not have been more tender. This dish would easily win an Oscar if such an award existed for Thai dishes.

Yee had totally won us over at this point, but it kept getting better and better--an expectation with which all diners should come equipped. Another Thai dish arrived, and this time it was the Basil Beef. Fresh herbs, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and carrot sticks mixed with slices of marinated beef were sautéed just long enough to mingle them as one. We slid this over their house fried rice and demanded a recount on the Oscar votes! Feel free to substitute the Basil Beef dish with chicken, shrimp, pork, squid or a delicious seafood combo; the flavor victory is no less either way.

We at C Magazine are here to inform, not overwhelm, but you do need a little more information to make this a fair assessment. We would be doing you a great injustice by not mentioning one of ChiThai’s most famous collections of main courses: the Curry Collection. They have one for every palate, starting with the ever-popular Red Curry (tasting similar to Indian cuisine), Green Curry and Yellow Curry. All of these spiced delights are coupled with your favorite meat or seafood, bamboo shoots, eggplant and vegetables galore, making it both exotic and fabulously satisfying.

Sea Bass is also on display, steamed with ginger, a light soy sauce and fresh veggies. They call it “Hong Kong” style, making an already flavorful white fish taste even better. If you’re the type that only eats from a grill, at ChiTahi your choices are almost limitless as well. Lamb is done Mongolian, Hunan and Mala styles to conquer the “gamer” in you, while the hottest version of Filet Mignon sautéed in a black pepper sauce with mushrooms and onions will test your spicy threshold!

Right about now you’ll need a cooling off period from the whirlwind of flavors your mouth has been watering over the prior hour. You’ll find just the refreshing break you need in the Fried Bananas with Coconut Ice Cream. Even if you haven’t another square inch of available stomach space left, you need this island-flavored ice cream treat. It is a soothing conclusion to an intense flavor trip.

ChiThai has done what few other Asian restaurants have, and that’s to simply do it right. ChiThai brings together the right atmosphere, menu and flavors that represent both China and Thailand extraordinarily well.