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Thai Garden

I am always surprised when a restaurant is able to manage a large-scale menu without forfeiting quality, so I was duly impressed when chef Pete Polgrang successfully pulled off four of 52 available entrees.

The chef and his wife, Nuch, formerly owned and managed Thai House in Jacksonville for 10 years before selling the restaurant in 2009 and moving to California. However, the couple returned to the Rogue Valley last year to pick up where they left off, opening Central Point's Thai Garden in October.

The Polgrangs retained many of the same entrees they had previously served at Thai House. The wealth of these entrees are family recipes, says Pete Polgrang.

With only eight, small, two- and four-person tables, Thai Garden is hardly able to entertain a large party without reservations. My husband, parents and I arrived at the restaurant without reservations on a recent Friday evening and were fortunate to find an almost-empty cafe and an accommodating Nuch Polgrang to wait on us.

The restaurant affords a cozy yet contemporary setting with neutral-colored walls simply embellished with large mirrors and photographs of the Polgrang family. A row of tables runs parallel to windows at the front of the restaurant and an open kitchen in the back.

Nuch Polgrang led us to a table in the corner of the restaurant and left us to peruse the extensive menu. My parents both commented that they found the small pictures to the right of the entrees helpful in deciding what to order. Meanwhile, Polgrang delivered a small pot of jasmine tea to my mother and a tall goblet of delicious, not-too-sweet Thai iced coffee ($2.50) to me.

Pete Polgrang says his wife perfected the Thai iced coffee and tea beverages, and I would have to agree.

Overwhelmed by the amount of choices, my dad asked Nuch Polgrang for her input, she suggested stir-fried cashew nut and he approved. At first, my mother lobbied for roasted duck curry but, wary of the spicy red curry, instead chose the dependable sweet-and-sour chicken. I also tended toward the predictable and ordered yellow curry, and Sean selected a variant of pad Thai, pad see-ew. Each of our dishes was reasonably priced at $8.95. Most of the dishes cost less than $10; however, some seafood and duck entrees cost up to $15.95. Each dish comes with a protein choice of tofu, chicken, beef or pork. Shrimp is $2 extra.

In addition to our entrees, we requested an order of chicken pot stickers ($6.95) to share. The small Asian dumplings were served with a sweet plum sauce, which warranted double-dipping. I especially appreciated the extra-thin, flaky, fried wonton skin encasing the ground chicken and vegetables. I guessed Pete Polgrang made the pot stickers from scratch, but he humbly admitted to ordering them from a Portland-based company.

Nuch Polgrang delivered large portions of sticky, white and brown rice to share with our respective dishes. Upon seeing the size of portions, we all agreed meals could be shared. The general consensus of the food was favorable.

My yellow curry with chicken, potatoes and carrots reminded me why I never stray from the tried-and-true dish. The sauce was less spicy than I expected, but Pete Polgrang says he leans toward a "medium" flavor, allowing customers to request additional fire if they prefer.

The pad see-ew, a favorite Thai street food, came with extra-large, fried, flat rice noodles, broccoli florets, bits of scrambled egg and pieces of beef and carrots. As much as Sean enjoyed his food, he said he preferred my dad's cashew stir-fry more.

The stir-fry had more vegetables — onions, bell peppers, carrots and celery — and a warmer flavor, owed to chili oil in the sauce.

My mom's sweet-and-sour chicken, with stir-fried and slightly overcooked vegetables (tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery and bell peppers), chicken and pineapple, also was deemed delicious by everyone at the table. The smooth, flavorful sauce was commendable.

Smaller portions of more than two dozen entrees are available for lunch, served with salad, one egg roll or pot sticker and steamed rice for $6.95.

— Teresa Thomas