This is not your same old, tedious Thai
Weera Thai, opened a couple of months ago, and occupies the same space that used to house Royal Thai — smack in the middle of one of those time-worn, seen-better-days shopping malls lining West Sahara near Valley View. Most of the stores here concern themselves with clothing our towns’ boundless supply of strippers, dancers, and hookers, but in between the stiletto shops, over the years, we’ve been able to find a few good things to eat amongst them. Unlike most of those businesses, though, and unlike the old Royal Thai, this one has taken the time and some money to refurbish the interior of their store — creating a warm and welcoming space that you won’t fear looking at too closely.
Weera advertises itself as an Issan-Thai restaurant — meaning it’s food has much in common with Laotian cuisine and its love of fiery chiles and sticky rice. According to Wikipedia, the Issan people also have a fondness for insects, frogs, various lizards and dung beetles (poverty will do that to you), but you won’t find any of those on this menu. What you will find is lots of duck — soup, larb, stir-fried, breast-of — and above-average renditions of many Thai classics.
Duck soup, you ask? Surely, you can’t be serious.
Well, ELV is serious and don’t call him Shirley. It’s a specialty of the house here, not much to look at, but full of flavor that’s fowl but hardly foul. It looks like every piece of a duck carcass has been thrown in your bowl, and you can pick meat off those bones if you like, but we couldn’t stop slurping the excellent, deeply flavored duck broth long enough to be bothered.
The slightly warm duck larb is also a revelation — bringing a much greater depth to this minced dish than it usually has — as is the ped nom tok (sliced duck stir fry dusted with chiles). Both are so rich, you’ll wonder why you ever ordered chicken versions in other Thai restaurants.
Yum pla dook foo (fried catfish salad) — that golden mélange (ELV loves him his mélanges) of mashed, deep-fried fish and julienned veggies — is given a nice, original kick here with a spicy, green apple dressing. It will dazzle you with how light (almost like crispy fish air) the catfish is, proving that re-constituted, disguised foodstuffs aren’t the exclusive province of the wacky Spanish.
Everything we’ve tried here has been a winner (#winning!), and from those flavors, to the presentations, to the interesting menu items, you can sense that this is one of those rare Thai restaurants not content to stick with the same, boring rotation of dishes. They also do a nice job with crispy pork here (deep fried pork belly), and, along with the flaky, non-greasy crab rolls, show a deft hand with the deep fryer.
If we have one complaint, it is that “medium spicy” is a bit tame for these buds. We understand why Thai restaurants err on the side of caution, as we were sitting in another Thai restaurant recently and overheard two aging boomers, dressed in their finest Wal-mart ensembles declare to the waitron upon being seated: “We really don’t like spicy food, so do you have something that’s not that spicy?” — so you have to feel for the operators of these places who are trying to keep it real and appeal to picky, brain-and-palate-dead Amuricans.
We also wish they did a better job of highlighting the Issan and other specialties of the house (most are buried among the usual Thai menu suspects), but we plan on exploring Weera’s menu extensively, and will make that suggestion to management directly.
As for dessert, when they suggest mango with sticky rice, get it. This area of the world is renowned for their love of the glutinous substance, and one bite of the ever-so-warm, salty rice with sweet mango will make a convert of you.
ELV’s two meals for two, with enough food for four at each of them, averaged $46, including tip.
3839 West Sahara Ave. Suite 9
Las Vegas, NV 89102