Gone are the days of pale imitations of authentic Thai cuisine. Though small in number, notable Thai spots have mastered the complex harmony of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty — typically all in one dish — while the Magic City's palate has graciously embraced the mini ethnic explosion that has proliferated in recent years. Southeast Asian cooking allows different ingredients like lemongrass, fish sauce, tamarind, and chili powder to distinctively be expressed with each bite. From tom yum soup and pad thai noodles to papaya salad and red curry, these classic dishes offer a well-balanced fusion of fiery exotic flavors and fragrances unlike any other in the international fare spectrum. There are a ton of Thai places that may boast a menu full of true Bangkok tastes. But what follows are ten best real-deal, street- and family-style Thai restaurants in Miami.
10. Moon Thai & Japanese Cuisine
For newcomers to this casual Coral Gables outpost, offerings from not one but two menus have proven to be a bit overwhelming. Located across the street from the University of Miami at 1118 S. Dixie Highway, Moon Thai & Japanese Cuisine serves a chock-full of budget-friendly Asian delights. Start your Southeast Asian culinary journey with
9. Nikko by Sunshine
A great contribution to the dining options in Brickell, master chef Sunchai "Sunshine" Naknoon's 50-seat eatery adds a modern yet whimsical touch to cross-cultural Asian cuisine from Japan, China, and Thailand – Sunshine's home country. At Nikko (186 SE 12th Ter.), expect to find art in the form of bento-style plates, intricate food carvings, inventive sushi rolls and fruit embellishments too beautiful to eat. But once you get past the artistry and into the first bite, robust flavors and textures will soon take over. Try the roasted duck ($20) with crisp skin and juicy meat paired alongside tasty Thai fried rice ($17). And for heaven on earth, Sunshine's warm and fluffy Thai donuts ($8) dipped in sweet condensed milk are the perfect ending to a savory meal.
8. Lotus Garden
This laid-back joint at 318 Miracle Mile continues to lure locals in with its wide selection of inexpensive menu items and light crowds even on a Friday night. Minus the outdated decor, Lotus Garden blossoms in their house specialties like Myra's Pond ($22.95), snapper chunks seasoned in wine sauce and ginger, served on a bed of string beans and clear noodles that are steamed, and their stand-out dish, the Jumbo Shrimp a la King ($17.95), succulent jumbo shrimps doused in egg, ginger, sweet pepper, scallions and a pinch of chili.
7. Lung Yai Thai Tapas
Not even six months since its opening, this snug Little Havana haven has been bringing the heat to Calle Ocho. Hot, salty, sweet and sour flavors wake up taste buds with affordable dishes like seafood noodle soup and spicy curries loaded with your choice of meat or vegetables. If you choose to dine alfresco, hanging lights and wooden picnic tables welcome patrons as they slurp on chef-recommended stunners such as the khao
6. Thai House II Restaurant
Asian tea house-style décor, friendly waiters, and traditional Thai food at this always-busy North Miami Beach establishment keep regulars coming back for a unique, homelike experience. Nestled at 2250 NE 163rd St., Thai House II boasts lunch and dinner options at exceptional prices for the quality of food served. The barbecue chicken satay ($11.25) with creamy peanut sauce is a hit starter, while the duck curry ($24.25), a deep-fried half duck drenched in Thai curry, coconut milk, pineapple, baby corn, sweet peas, zucchini, and carrots, leaves a palatable impression. And if it's your birthday, enjoy live singing and dancing – tambourines and drums included – by the entire staff to celebrate.
5. Ricky Thai Bistro
Offering robust, undiluted Thai cooking, Ricky Thai Bistro at 1617 NE 123rd St., uses vibrant seasonings and ultra-fresh ingredients, most of which are grown directly out back in their herb garden. This mom-and-pop eatery serves up some of the best noodles – if not the best – in North Miami. Take your pick: pad thai ($11) made with thin noodles, pad kee mow/drunken noodles ($12) made with flat wide noodles or pad
4. Panya Thai
Chef-owner Panya Amporn turns out an extensive menu of Thai favorites at North Miami Beach's hidden gem, located at 520 NE 167th St. Take-out and dine-in guests enjoy the modest melding of authentic Thai flavors that have proven to be a cut above other Thai joints in Miami. Must-try dishes include sweet massaman chicken curry ($17.95) with subtle hints of spices, and the equally delectable yet distinctly different garden fish ($21.95), crisped to perfection fish buried beneath black bean sauce, ginger, scallions, and celery.
3. Asian Thai Kitchen
The understated ambiance of this tried and true hole-in-the-wall tucked inside a Coconut Grove Kwik Stop allows the colorful selection of food to really shine. Asian Thai Kitchen (3135 Grand Ave.) boasts pleasant renditions of street-style classics like the Thai omelet ($10), a soft on the inside, crispy on the outside Thai-style omelet mixed with minced chicken, basil leaves, onions, and scallions served over a bed of steamed white rice. However, guests tend to fill their to-go containers with the Panang curry ($11), made with your choice of beef, chicken, pork, tofu or shrimp, which can be added for an extra $2. The bright red-orange Panang curry is infused with sweet coconut milk, peppers, carrots and roasted ground peanuts to balance the right amount of aroma, piquancy, and texture.
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2. Sawaddee Thai-Sushi
It may be the intimate Zen-like facade and amicable staff that help draw in customers – mainly regulars – to Normandy Isle's finest Thai spot, but it's the authentic food that effortlessly excites most. Owner
1. Cake Thai Kitchen
Winner of New Times' Best Thai Restaurant this year, Cake Thai Kitchen brings Bangkok tastes to the MiMo district. At 7919 Biscayne Blvd., this seemingly unpretentious place boasts the real deal in Thai street food. Despite its moniker, the tiny Thai hot spot serves up much more than sweetness as evident in the pungent green papaya salad ($8) tossed with salted crab, long green beans, grape tomatoes, lime, and peanuts. Cake Thai's menu also includes all the soups, noodles, rice and meat dishes that are standard at most Thai restaurants, but here, it's done exceptionally well and made in bulk — which you could order buffet-style for only $8 a person.