FEED ME!: Thai Plate: Authentic and delish
JACKSON, WYO – Looking past my Pad Kee Mao and out the front window, I expected to see taxi rickshaws, 125cc motorcycles overburdened with families of five, doughy tourists in flip-flops, and rivers of power lines disappearing into heavily leafed monkey pod trees.
The vibe inside Thai Plate, the Thai restaurant that took over Teton Thai’s original location in the dead-end, pedestrian-only alley between St. John’s Episcopal Church and Gaslight Alley, is that authentic.
Dirt-stained pastel walls. Mismatched furniture. Off-brand Kleenex for napkins. A thin silk cover decorated with sequins over the tissue box and an image of a trundling elephant. An oversized wall calendar over a decade past its prime (1999) and featuring faintly watercolored Chinese landscapes. A peacock rendered in sequins on a wall tapestry.
Other Jackson Hole hotspots – such as The Rose, CocoLove, Sudachi, and The Kitchen – also offer transporting experiences, but to much more sexy, swanky metropolitan areas like Manhattan or Los Angeles.
Thai Plate transports you, but your destination is more akin to a developing country. And it’s awesome.
Thai Plate is the antidote to the valley’s reclaimed barn wood, oxidized steel, log, and artwork-as-expensive-as-a-new-car restaurant aesthetic. I do love this mountain modern, as well as the food that accompanies it. But, when carefully curated (not to mention fancy schmancy) is the norm, scattered and scrappy becomes wonderfully special.
Thai Plate is wonderfully special, both for its could-care-less décor and its food.
We started with the steamed chicken dumplings ($8). Five arrived with a healthy garnish of red and green cabbage slivers. The dumplings themselves were under a mountain of cilantro.
Biting into the first one, two things surprised me, both highly positive: First, what I had initially assumed to be toasted sesame seeds on top of the dumpling were really bits of sautéed garlic. I’ve yet to meet any garlic I didn’t like and its heavy application here added sweetness.
Second, when Thai Plate says “chicken dumplings” they are not kidding. The innards are solid chicken. The menu mentions shitake mushrooms in addition to chicken, but upon close inspection I found no sign of mushrooms. The chicken was moist, flavorful, and seriously solid.
You could get this appetizer as your main course and leave full. Because I like to taste as many things as possible, I did not do this.
Earlier, while standing in the restaurant’s tiny entrance and looking directly into the open kitchen, which was no more than three feet away, we saw the dinner that would be our destiny. The plate was piled high with pan-fried rice noodles and all sorts of veggies, looking like the best thing to come out of any kitchen anywhere in the world, ever. (Full disclosure: we arrived at Thai Plate beyond ravenous.)
When a table came open five minutes later, we had already decided that dish would be one of our main dishes. “Would it be bad if we got two noodle dishes?” I asked.
The dish we had seen upon arrival was Pad Kee Mao ($14 with chicken). Looking at Thai Plate’s menu, the Pad Woon Sen ($14 with chicken) – glass noodles and chili fish sauce instead of rice noodles and spicy garlic sauce – called to me.
But I usually don’t like to order two entrees that are so similar.
“Two noodle dishes sounds like the best idea ever,” replied the best boyfriend in the world.
I think he was actually telling the truth and not just saying what he thought might fastest staunch the drool dribbling from one corner of my mouth. I was fearfully hungry.
Unfamiliar with the spiciness of Thai Plate’s star system (1 through 5), we ordered both at a modest spice level of 2. Next time I’ll go 3. At 2, by the end of the meal, I had only the tiniest inkling of heat staining my lips. I don’t want anything so hot I get the hiccups or start sweating, but I like my lips to feel like they’ve been stung by a bee. I think 3 will do me right.
Thai Plate, open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 9:30 p.m. 135 N. Cache Dr. 734-2654; tetonthaiplate.com.