Spicy shrimp and squid yum at Emerald Thai on Mt. Moriah Road
For me, chilly December weather prompts a craving for Thai food, and nothing satisfies that food itch like Emerald Thai Restaurant, located on Mt. Moriah across the street from Neely's Bar-B-Que.
The restaurant opened 15 years ago on a stretch of Mt. Moriah better known for its car lots, but Emerald continues to thrive thanks to the skill and dedication of the Praseuth family. Manila Praseuth now runs the front of the house, while her husband Toui is in the kitchen, turning out a warm and spicy assortment of dishes for lunch and dinner.
Whenever we visit, my husband Tony reminisces about the restaurant's lunchtime buffet, which he was known to frequent several times a week with his friend, Dan Barron. The lunch buffet is no longer offered, but there are lunch specials for $5.99. I haven't tried the specials. We typically go for dinner when we can enjoy our own bottle of wine for a $5 fee and a menu that is just large enough to offer lots of tempting options.
These days, I tend to order the same thing: a salad called Spicy Shrimp and Squid Yum (No. 24). Even I am amazed at my love for this dish, because there are no noodles (how can it be Thai?) and no lettuce (how can it be a salad?). Neither are missed. Instead, the plate overflows with steamed squid and shrimp and what I think of as a Thai spin on mirepoix: carrots, cucumbers, and red onions slivered and tossed with a citrus, chili, and garlic dressing. When the salad arrives, it's topped with a handful of cilantro leaves and large wedge of lime. I love squeezing out every last drop of juice so my fingertips smell like limeade. Then I dive in, scooping up the plate's leftover dressing with a spoon.
Tony tends to be more adventuresome with his order, trying Yum Neah (No. 20: thinly sliced steak in a dressing simiilar to my salad ) or last night's choice: Emerald curry, a green curry that is hotter than red and cooks into a beautiful sage sea for chicken, carrots, peas, mushrooms, eggplant, and perfectly cubed zuchinni. Although the menu lists bamboo shoots as part of the dish, you need to request the bamboo if you want it. "I like bamboo shoots in my curry, but not our customers," Manila explains. "They don't like the smell."
Emerald Thai Restaurant, 5699 Mt. Moriah Road, 367-2827 (emeraldthairestaurant.biz) Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.