Chow down with John Batchelor at Thai Square
Generally quality ingredients, with significant attention to presentations
Open and airy
Welcoming and attentive
Moderate prices relative to the Triad market
Ratings range from Not Recommended or Acceptable to one (satisfactory), two (good), three (very good), four (excellent) or five (truly exceptional) stars.
Most recent visit: Sept. 25
Thai Square is a new entry into the Greensboro restaurant scene, located next door to the new Sprouts market. The interior is bright and airy, with white walls decorated in greenery and a few Thai-themed accessories. Personnel are welcoming and attentive. A range of beers match up well with this food, and the wine list contains good selections at reasonable prices, most available by the glass.
In general, this kitchen devotes more attention to presentations than is usual for the genre, at least in the Triad, and sometimes higher quality ingredients appear as well. My wife and I started one evening with Fresh Rolls. These are large, with soft rice paper rolled around crisp shredded lettuce, celery, fresh basil, carrot slivers and large shrimp, all pleasantly chilled, decorated with large fresh Thai basil leaves. A peanut/soy sauce lends additional flavor. Thai Dumplings are available steamed or fried. Personally, I prefer steamed, because I like the soft texture that process imparts. They enclose ground and blended chicken, pork and shrimp, redolent of Thai spices. Crispy Rolls are presented in a big martini glass. They are filled with sliced vegetables and fried, crisp, as the title indicates, but not greasy. Sweet and sour sauce, sourced from the bottom of the glass, adds bite.
My wife is particularly fond of Thai salad entrées. In Som Tom, firm (but not tough) shrimp join shredded papaya, ground peanuts and diced tomatoes, along with carrots and a spicy Thai chili dressing. Very pleasant, especially if you are seeking a light main course. The longest section of the entrée menu offers a choice of proteins or vegetarian ingredients in various preparations, priced according to your selection. In all entrées, multiple fresh vegetables arrived al dente- just right. We ordered Pad Kraprow with chicken. The meat is minced, so specific locations on the bird are unidentifiable, but clear, natural chicken flavor emerges, marred a little by occasional gristle.
Onions, green peppers, garlic and abundant Thai basil leaves convey a complex flavor medley. “Ginger” is based on giant slices of onion, green pepper, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini and fresh ginger. We chose beef in this case, which turned out to be thin, very lean and moderately flavored, albeit well-matched to the other ingredients. I tried Red Thai Curry in a seafood combination. This is bathed in coconut milk with bamboo shoots, green peppers, fresh green beans, carrots and lots of Thai basil. Medium-sized shrimp and scallops were tender, and mussels emitted a fresh, clean flavor. The squid had been heavily scored, making it possible to bite through an otherwise nearly impenetrable texture, which added nothing to the flavor profile. Overall, however, I really liked the fairly spicy impact of the curry.
One menu page lists Signature Dishes. Pla Sam Rod is a whole flounder, an absolute knockout, well worth a special visit in its own right. Working around the bones requires some effort, but it pays off. Cooked tomatoes and pineapple soften the impact of spicy-hot Thai chili and garlic sauce, augmented by fresh cilantro and basil. Cilantro Shrimp are sautéed in white wine and garlic butter, classic ingredients in many cultures. This is a colorful presentation with the deep green of fresh cilantro leaves and broccoli contrasting with bright orange carrot slices. The large shrimp are placed over rice with sautéed onions. Ginger Salmon is presented in a fish-shaped bowl, “fish in fish” according to our server, plated with stir-fried onions, green peppers, carrots, mushrooms and fresh ginger, ladled with house-made soy sauce. This arrived steaming hot, the salmon a little overcooked, but still moist and tender. Lamb Basil hosts three lamb chops, about a half-inch thick, cooked well done, but moist and tender due to the abundant liquid that blends beautifully with rice. Fresh garlic, Thai chili, green pepper slices, broccoli, zucchini and carrot slices are sprinkled with lots of coarse ground black pepper. Fried basil glistens on top. The impact is fairly hot-spicy, but not excessively so.
In fact, I doubt that any of the dishes marked as hot-spicy on the menu would be daunting for almost any guests. I’ll probably ask for a higher level of intensity when I return, and I will return for sure!
John Batchelor has been writing about eating and drinking since 1981. Over a thousand of his articles have been published. He is also author of two travel/cookbooks: Chefs of the Coast: Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast, and Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or see his blog, johnbatchelordiningandtravel.blogspot.com.
Thai Square is located at 3361 Battleground Ave. in Greensboro, (336) 907-7845, thaisquaregso.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, Appetizers $5-$10, Salads $10-$16, Soups $6/cup-$19/bowl, Entrées $13-$25, Desserts $4-$7.