Sunday, November 25, 2012

Imm Thai: Imm ... No thanks.

Thai is the new trendy cuisine, which means new Thai places are cropping up where they shouldn’t be. Imm Thai in Annandale is a Thai restaurant owned by Koreans -- the dominant nationality in Annandale among area restaurants. It’s like having a Vietnamese restaurant owned by Koreans: it just doesn’t work conceptually. Thai food is characterized by nuanced flavor combinations -- sweet, spicy, tamarind, chili -- of which Imm Thai failed to crack, and quite miserably so.

I along with a quartet of friends dined at Imm Thai at noon Sunday -- peak lunch time for any restaurant (I worked as a dim sum girl at a Chinese restaurant in my pre-teens) -- and yet we were the only guests. We must’ve walked in through the back entrance inadvertently, for we were greeted at the entrance by the stink of the adjacent bathrooms.

The ambience is very minimalistic and modern, with red, black and white accents. Very Ikea. Well, it’s a good thing the owners didn’t spend too much on furniture because I wouldn’t expect  this place to be in business for very long.

Although we were the only guests at the restaurant save for another couple -- one that entered after we did, but was served before -- the food did not arrive at our tables until about 30 minutes after we placed our orders. Even so, the plates arrived, one at a time -- a no-no in hospitality etiquette -- with 10-15 minutes between each arrival. The absurd timing, coupled with the torture of watching delicious food preparation on the Food Network on the dining room’s flatscreen television, was infuriating.

But alas, my drunken noodle entree arrived -- last among my fellow diners. The noodles? Broken, crumbled, pale. The green beans? Green and crisp, but these do not belong in drunken noodle. The fresh tomatoes dominated the flavor in a dish that ought to ooze with spice, tamarind, and sweet seasonings -- all notes overtly missing from a signature Thai dish.

“How is everything?” our waitress asked. I told her the truth: My dish was not very good, and I wanted to send it back. In its place, I ordered the crispy chicken, which was OK; tastier than my disappointing noodle dish, but anybody can fry some odd pieces of chicken, toss it into some sweet sauce, and make it taste good.

What irks me is that the back kitchen took their sweet time to prepare each dish, seemingly one at a time (is there only a single operating wok in the kitchen??), and had more than enough time and attention to cook each dish correctly. Moreover, it is a weekend, and comparable Asian restaurants often book the best cook for peak hours. If this is the work of the best cook they have, I cannot imagine what abominable food this restaurant serves during its off hours.

We exited the same way we left: through the back exit. Our dining experience was nearly as unappetizing as the bathroom stench that waved us out.

The crispy chicken dish at Imm Thai

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