Driving along Route 101A in Amherst recently, I noticed that a little roadside Thai restaurant that we hadn’t visited in years was sporting a new sign and a new name.
A quick web search told me that what had been Chiang Mai closed sometime last year, and recently reopened as ThaiLicious Asian Fusion. Mrs. Gourmet and I stopped in on a Saturday night to check it out.
The building itself is tiny — perhaps it started out life as a small house that survived the conversion of the country road from Nashua to Milford into the busy four-lane commercial strip that it is today.
The front door opens into a vestibule that leads to a bar and checkout counter, with the dining room around the corner to the right. The window-lined dining area, clearly an addition to the original building, is compact, with maybe 16 tables divided by a half wall.
The whole place seems to have been freshened up, nicely decorated with neutral walls and light wood floors and a dark ceiling that gives a sense of height to the small space.
Only four or five tables were occupied when we arrived at around 7 on Saturday, so perhaps the word of the reopening has yet to spread.
ThaiLicious’s menu runs six pages, ranging from appetizers, soups and salads to chef’s specialties, curries, vegetarian dishes, noodle and rice dishes, and desserts. Spiciness, when it’s a factor, is ranked on a 1- to 5-star scale from low to high.
Mrs. G and I are no authorities on Thai cuisine, so our reviews are simply based on whether or not we liked the dishes placed before us rather than their authenticity.
We started by sharing a couple of appetizers. Shumai ($7.95) was a plate of 5 bite-sized pieces of minced shrimp and veggies rolled in wonton skin and steamed, each topped with a small baby shrimp and served with soy sauce for dipping.
Our second appetizer was a little more adventurous: Takoyaki ($9.98) is a plate of five fried flour dumplings made with small bits of octopus and served under a drizzle of teriyaki sauce with a sprinkle of bonito flakes (fine dried shavings of skipjack tuna), green onions and a bit of mayonnaise.
The interior of the dumplings seemed a bit creamy, as though they hadn’t quite cooked through, but the toppings — and the occasional bite of octopus — made for a tasty dish that we were excited to be trying for the first time.
After several minutes of studying the menu, Mrs. G threw herself on the mercy of our young waiter and asked him for a recommendation. He suggested the Pad Thai — a choice Mrs. G jumped at, opting for the crispy version, with chicken and shrimp (about $17).
She enjoyed the dish, as she always does, with its mix of eggs, tofu, scallions, bean sprouts and delicious touch-of-peanut sauce. I thought the crispy noodles had a bit of an oily taste, but Mrs. G strenuously disagreed.
I decided on Siamese Twins ($16.95), which was a bright, colorful dish with chicken, shrimp, pineapple, onion, green peppers, zucchini and tomatoes in a “sweet hot and sour” sauce, served with white rice on the side.
This dish came with 2 stars on the spiciness scale. Tasting the sauce by itself, I detected a bit of hot pepper in the background, but in combination with the other ingredients, the heat gave way almost completely to the sweet and sour.
As we shared the dishes, we realized that when we got a little of each in one bite, it made for a really tasty combination that we would highly recommend.
Value factor at ThaiLicious is good — our tab came to just over $60. Service was unfailingly polite, and while the pacing of the food was a little slow, we’d give them a pass as they’re probably still getting their feet under them.
It’s a humble little place, most likely a family operation, with good food and reasonable prices. We hope they succeed.
ThaiLicious Asian Fusion 63 Route 101A, Amherst; 603-672-2929. Hours: Saturday-Sunday, 2-9 p.m.; Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Pricing: Appetizers, $7-$23; soups and salads, $5-$17; entrees, $14-$25.
Scores for ThaiLicious Atmosphere: 16/20 Menu: 18/20 Food: 18/20 Service: 18/20 Value: 18/20 TOTAL: 88/100