Best of Miami

Ten Best Thai Restaurants in Miami

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 larp ($12), Northern Thailand's famed dish made of cool lettuce, marinated pork and crispy vegetables, tossed in lime juice and Thai spices. Then take it to the next level with Moon Thai's specialty, Panang salmon ($21) – a moist, grilled salmon curried with fresh red pepper and basil. 

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 soi gai ($12), a warm bowl of golden coconut curry, fresh egg noodles, red onions, coriander and meat, all topped with a crazy mess of crispy noodles, or the khao man gai ($12) – whole chicken gently poached in salt, sugar, garlic, and ginger, and served with rice and a delectable sauce made of fermented soybean, garlic and thai chili.

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. 

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Maureen Aimee Mariano is a freelance food writer for Miami New Times. She earned a bachelor of science in journalism from the University of Florida before making her way back to the 305, the city that first fueled her insatiable appetite.