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Fearless Critic restaurant review
New Haven
Food
Feel
Price
7.7
7.5
$25
Thai
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 11:30am–3:00pm
Mon–Thu 4:00pm–9:30pm
Fri–Sat 11:30am–10:00pm
Sun noon–9:30pm

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

www.thaiawesome.net

Hamden
1505 Dixwell Ave.
Hamden, CT
(203) 288-9888
Thai Awesome
Hamden Thai that’s at least a player in the increasing-authenticity game

The husband-and-wife team that owns Thai Awesome opened it after the husband left his stint at Thai Taste (under positive circumstances, we are told). Leaving New Haven for Hamden seems to have been a good call, as this stretch is enjoying something of a Thai burst, headlined by the pricier Terrace a few doors down. This place is more laid-back and simple, and the staff could hardly be any friendlier, although the space—wooden wainscoting, rough plaster yellow walls, catalog-ish lanterns—is nothing special, and it’s dominated by sweeping parking lot views in front.

The best thing on this menu is a splendid version of wok-kissed drunken noodle. The key is to ask for the dish with minced chicken, as the local Thais do, instead of the tougher whole chicken chunks. We also appreciate the scattered attempts at lesser-seen regional Thai dishes, the best of which is “Siam soft-shell crab,” made with egg, coconut milk, and onion (in Thailand it would probably be called “curry powder crab,” and more likely made with the hard-shell variety). Authentically spicy “lime fish” is a small whole red snapper that’s covered with lots of fresh garlic slices, green chilies, red pepper, and fish sauce. The prep packs a punch, but the fish beneath is an inferior specimen, a grayish, flaky little thing with none of the delicate flavor or sweetness one would hope for.

Some of the simpler dishes are even less successful, like yum nua, a salad whose slices of beef are chewy and overcooked, like at a bad Chinese restaurant. The chili is too restrained, the big chunks of cucumber are a throwaway, and the limey kick, savory fish sauce, and bright cilantro aren’t enough to rescue the dish. And why must the lunch combo be so boring? Pad Thai, “Siam Fried Rice,” drunken noodle, cashew nut, or red curry? Zzzzzz.

Along those lines, the specials list might fool some diners into thinking they’re witnessing examples of some obscure regional Thai cuisine—e.g. “Wild Boar Basil”—but they’re really just permutations of the same set of Thai-American and/or Chinese-American stir-fries and curries, many of them laden with sugar, culminating in the Chinese-American dish to end all: the “Siam roll,” a deep-fried egg roll with sweet-and-sour sauce.

It’s not that this food is bad, exactly; it’s just that it’s become clear that the New Haven area is ready for even more authentic, better executed regional Thai food. Still, Thai Awesome is a worthy addition to Hamden, and an improvement over its origins.

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