The idea of a diner serving Thai food and sushi is no longer the surprise it was three years ago when the original Eddie Hills restaurant was sold.
The new owners kept the classic diner shell, but have totally revamped the interior and whatever shock there once was has subsided. Now, Eddie Hills Sushi Thai has the comfortable look of a restaurant that has been a longtime success. There's usually a sizeable crowd on hand, service hums smoothly and the menu, predictably large after merging a full Thai selection with a solid sushi bar, works very well, indeed.
Eddie was a race fan and chose his spot near Gulfstream racetrack in the days when Florida was a major stop on the circuit. Today, tracks are closing and Eddie's racing photos look a little out of place on the walls, but the rest of the diner setting fits surprisingly well. The many booths are comfortable and what was once the diner counter makes a fine sushi bar, where the two most popular Asian cuisines daily demonstrate peaceful coexistence.
Of the two, I like the Thai best at Eddie Hills; there's a special vibrancy to the way the kitchen prepares standard dishes like Jumping Squid ($7.95) and whole fried snapper ($22.95).
It's a subtle thing, but the addition of chopped celery leaves to the squid (or shrimp if you prefer) gives it a nice edge, and the fish is cooked just right so it stays moist inside and isn't oversauced. I like the basil sauce that even includes a handful of deep-fried basil leaves sprinkled on top, but the ginger, onions, mushroom and pineapple treatment is equally good.
The Thai spring rolls ($3.95) are fried rather than raw, but still tasty. Thin slices of grilled beef with cucumber, onion, cilantro and plenty of lime juice ($7.95) is another fine starter.
One notable point at Eddie Hills -- the kitchen isn't afraid to spice the food Thai style if you give the word. Medium here isn't the wimpy hint of spice at some establishments -- it's hot, and if you give the go-ahead for hot or Thai style food, get ready for a searing experience.
The competent service staff can offer good guidance in this area. It works particularly well in a dish like shrimp with volcano sauce ($16.95), a slightly sweet chili sauce that, even very hot, doesn't overpower the shrimp. Lobster is available with a mild coconut-based curry ($12.95 for one small lobster tail, $20.95 for two), but a bit of added heat (which the servers suggest) really perks up the dish.
As at many Thai restaurants, meals can be assembled by components: Pick a sauce like garlic, ginger, broccoli and oyster sauce, or basil ($9.95) and add your choice of chicken, pork, fried tofu or beef; shrimp is $2 more. All the main Thai curries are represented on the menu, with any of the above meats available.
Massaman, with potato, avocado and nuts ($13.95) is medium bodied, while the red curry, with chili paste and basil ($12.95) has a leaner style. Panang curry ($12.95) adds Kafir lime leaves and, like the others, uses coconut milk as a base. More unusual, and very good, is the country-style curry ($11.95) that uses a red chili base but eschews the coconut milk and its accompanying richness.
Noodles are a common denominator in both Thai and Japanese cooking, and the kitchen at Eddie Hills is adept with both. I'm particularly fond of the flat Thai rice noodles served with pepper, fresh tomato, basil, chili and any number of meats or vegetables ($8.95-$12.95). Japanese noodle dishes are generally wetter, as in the bowl of buckwheat noodles with chicken and mixed vegetables in a light broth ($7.50).
The Japanese side of the menu is nearly as extensive as the Thai; the main emphasis is on sushi, which is very fresh, but there are also many cooked dishes available. The tempura is light, including a seafood combination of shrimp, scallops and fish ($20.95) or shrimp alone ($16.95). Spicy conch ($4.95) and octopus ($4.95) are truly spicy, though not as hot as some of the Thai fare.
There is a huge list of rolls available, and all the ones I tried were expertly made with very fresh ingredients. For a real change from the Thai menu, opt for the sashimi, thick slices of pristine raw fish such as the Usuzukiri combination of tuna, salmon, and white fish ($10.95). The dish that draws me most often though is Chirashi ($16.95), a sashimi platter in which the chef makes especially artistic arrangements of the fish, in fans and intriguing layers.
There are many decent Thai restaurants and quite a few good sushi bars in southeast Broward, but to get both under one roof is unusual. To get the two with the flair demonstrated at Eddie Hills is really a treat, making it one of the best moderately priced quick stops for an interesting meal for miles around.