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Sala Thai

Thai iced coffeeIn a word: Inviting and pleasant.

The specs: #0581
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Daily Dadio, IsthmusVegetarian Meetup, Ashley & Tim in Wisconsin, Yelp, Eat Drink Madison, Letter from Here; TDPF, Sala Thai on Urbanspoon

JM, Kristine, Nichole, and Nino ate the fish patties, sweet and sour pork, laab, yum tofu, and mango sticky rice with a beer and a Thai iced coffee.
The bill was about $50, or $13/person, plus tip.
Nichole and Nino gave Sala Thai an A-; Kristine gave Sala Thai a B+; JM gave Sala Thai a B (see our grading rubric).

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Please note: many of the photos for this post were taken by Kristine, who graciously granted us permission to use them.

Fish pattiesWe'd been looking forward to Sala Thai for a long time because we'd loved the food we got at Bahn Thai and Corner Store. Somehow we managed to not cheat our list and refrain for two years. It was good, but not perfect; still, we'd come back. Nino and Kristine joined us and as it turned out more mouths were a boon, as the menu's long and as is the wait between visits from a server.

Beverages included some Ale Asylum beers (Nichole picked a Madtown Nutbrown), but no lemonade for JM. Thai iced tea and coffee were available. Nino tried the coffee, which was smooth and strong.

Sweet and sour porkWe started with the fish pattie (sic) appetizer. It made us think of sausage, from the seared exterior as snappy as a casing to the fatty, springy, homogeneous interior made of (our guess) salmon, scallions and spices. Nino said the patties "made my sideburns sweat," but the accompanying tart/sour cucumber, carrot and peanut salad was cooling.

We shared every dish, but JM's favorite was the sweet and sour pork. It was nicely presented and colorful, with a uniformly chopped melange of three kinds of peppers, pineapple and tender pork in a decent sauce that was sweet but not too salty.

Laab

The laab was some of the best yet, up there with Rising Sons and Ha Long Bay. The finely ground beef with basil, chili, lime and mint was juicy and heated up the lips and heads of everyone who tried it.

Yum tofu

Kristine was a fan of the yum tofu salad: prettily presented transparent noodles, marinated seared tofu strips, green beans, red peppers and more in a light, citrusy sauce.

Mango and sticky riceFor afters, coconut custard was an option, but we went with classic sticky rice with mango. It was delicious - "light and easy to share," opined Kristine. The pieces of mango were perfectly ripe. The sticky rice was soaked in mango juice, which provided most if not all of its sweetness. Topping the rice were mysterious (to us) crunchy bits that looked like tiny peanuts which our server told us were toasted sprouted bean seeds. They lent a texture balance that's often missing from this comforting dessert.

As we mentioned, the meal was good, but the service was a little slow. This did give us a long time to linger over conversation, including JM's parlor trick where he names from memory the #1 charting song on a companion's birthday. Nowadays, such feats are easily verified using wi-fi of which there is none at Sala Thai (which also prevented the sharing of cute pet pictures, etc.) None of this was bad, just notes on a warm summer evening that accompanied a pleasant repast.

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I love Sala Thai! Lao Laan-Xaang and Bahn Thai are excellent, but Sala Thai is the best.

If you're ever in the mood for curry, they are all good, but the mus-sa-mun curry stands out. Viet spring roll, tom yum soup, and larb isan are repeat favorites, but I've never had a bad meal there.

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