The Gossiping Gourmet: Thai Bros. offers satisfying, if not always spicy, array

For the past 19 years, Thai Bros. has been serving locals and tourists mostly traditional Thai cuisine, save the occasional exception like fried wontons with cream cheese and avocado.

This little storefront restaurant is a pleasant and unpretentious place to dine, with white tablecloths, a large fish tank and pictures of people and scenes from Thailand. One wall is covered with a striking, Asian-themed, multi-dimensional painting by local artist Paul Courtney. The cozy, narrow, L-shaped dining area makes it easy for guests to inquire of their neighbors, "What are you eating, and is it good?"

We can never pass up the geow sa, wonderful fried dumplings stuffed with a juicy, delicately seasoned chopped chicken and vegetable mixture. It comes with a sweet and spicy soy dipping sauce on the side. Shredded carrots and cabbage garnish the plate, and we used the extra sauce as a dressing to make a little salad.

There are several sates, spring rolls and fried calamari, among other selections. If you can't decide, have a sampler platter with a variety of tasty bites.

Thai curries range from the popular Famous Yellow, with chicken and potatoes in a coconut milk sauce, to the Red Devil, featuring beef, snap peas, sauce carrots and zucchini in a mild Panang curry sauce.

Soups are always a good bet in a Thai restaurant, and we chose Doug's Favorite, a creamy-smooth coconut milk soup that had a gentle tartness for balance and was chock full of shredded carrots, cabbage and cilantro. Patrons have their choice of chicken or shrimp, and we went for the small, tasty shrimp. The restaurant offers a wonton soup (geow num) with wontons stuffed with shrimp and chicken and the classic tom yum, hot and sour, with cilantro, lemon grass, vegetables and chicken or shrimp.

On the salad menu, in addition to the house and papaya, are three entrée-sized offerings, one with chicken, one with beef and one with seafood. I'm a big fan of these, since they make a perfect lunch. I can't make up my mind which I like best, but maybe it's the yum gai: sliced chicken breast on romaine, with celery, carrots, onions, cashews, peanuts and mint in a spicy lime dressing.

Perfect Harmony is the name of the sliced chicken in peanut sauce on a bed of spinach. The chicken was a bit overcooked, but the bright green al dente spinach was very good, and the peanut sauce brought everything together.

What we missed in the entrees was some heat. Usually, you are asked in Thai restaurants how spicy you would like your food prepared, or hot sauce is available on the table.

Eggplant chicken was better in that department, with an underpinning of spice. We thought the chunks of eggplant were delicious, as were the green and red peppers, onions and carrots strewn together with the slices of chicken in a wonderful, sweet basil sauce.

Fire Bird refers to the restaurant's Cornish game hen, marinated in Thai spices and grilled. It had a crispy, dark brown skin but was a bit overcooked. It was a simple dish, served with mixed vegetables and sweet chili sauce. The sauce provided the extra flavor and moisture for the bird.

The dish that really surprised us was the garlic pork. The thin slices of tender pork and shredded carrots came bathed in a rich and very flavorful sauce of the meat juices, dark spices, a bit of heat, slivers of fried shallots and thinly shredded cabbage. It was excellent.

We tried two different ice creams for dessert. The green tea version was too sweet and didn't have enough of the astringent tea flavor. However, the house-made coconut ice cream, which was more like coconut ice milk, was a light and refreshing finish to our meal. Tiny bits of mango and peanuts gave it texture and subtle flavor, and it had just the right amount of sweetness.

TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at

Thai Bros.

Where: 238 Laguna Ave., Laguna Beach

When: Noon to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday


Appetizers: $5.95 to 7.95

Entrées: $11.95 to $17.95

Desserts: $4 to $7


Bottles: $24 to $38

By the glass: $6.50 to $9

Corkage fee: $10

Information: (949) 376-9979 or

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