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Fearless Critic restaurant review
New Haven
Food
Feel
Price
8.6
7.5
$35
Thai
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 11:30am–3:00pm
Mon–Thu 5:00pm–9:30pm
Fri 11:30am–3:00pm
Fri 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sat noon–10:00pm
Sun noon–9:30pm

Features Veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Accepted

www.theterracethai.com

Hamden
1559 Dixwell Ave.
Hamden, CT
(203) 230-2077
The Terrace
A pretty little spot from which to wave so long to food-court pad Thai

Believe the media buzz: this little Thai restaurant, hidden along a stretch of Dixwell that seems to be exploding with subversively good Asian food, is the real deal. The Terrace’s menu strays further from Thai-American and more into the real regional cuisine of Thailand than any other restaurant in the New Haven area—except, perhaps, for Rice Pot.

But this is hardly an ethnic hole-in-the-wall. The Thai couple that owns the place has a penchant for upmarketing, advertising the wife’s French culinary pedigree. The space going for something more minimalist than your standard Thai-American joint; it’s far more New American-ish, all whites and blacks, and its carefully planted lawns shield it from the road traffic in a surprisingly effective way. The presentations, too, are far more artful than usual, with vertical plating and such. The flip side of these facts is that the Terrace’s portions are smaller than usual and their prices higher than usual ($15.95 for three rice-noodle-crusted prawns on skewers?).

That’s not to say that the menu completely avoids the boring Thai-American staples, Chinese-American stir-fry dishes, and such. These are perhaps necessary to do a steady lunch business in the area. But the husband and wife that run the joint seem to bow to those conventions begrudgingly. Clearly, they care more about the real stuff: flaky deep-fried catfish salad with green mango, shallots, peanuts, chili, and lime; mussel pancake; shrimp-paste rice; or crispy rice crackers with a sauce of ground pork, shrimp, scallion, coconut milk, peanuts, and Thai spices. Even the Terrace’s tom yum soup is much spicier than the local norm, and refreshingly, it’s sprinkled with kaffir lime leaf, adding needed complexity.

“Terrace curry” is probably too spicy for 95% of the people who order it, but the dish really deserves a chance. It’s one of the few Thai curries in the city to display such admirable balance of flavor, spice, and aroma: aggressive chili pepper, garlic and kaffir lime leaf, just a whisper of coconut milk. But we don’t really get the water chestnuts, and the protein lets you down a bit; the beef is the chewy kind, not at all better than average. This is one of the few systematic flaws at the Terrace.

Otherwise, the missteps are small. Som tam, the green papaya salad that is a staple—maybe the staple—of northern cuisine, boasts peanuts with a nice char, a subtle dose of palm sugar, unusually ripe cherry tomatoes, and sufficient heat from chili; however, the dried shrimp—one of the backbones of som tam flavor—are curiously missing. Another disappointment is that the fish dishes—steamed or fried—are made with fillets instead of whole fish, as they would be in Thailand. Still, it’s hard to complain when this place represents such a step forward for Hamden.

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