As our traditional-Thai-clad server brought chicken satay toward our table, we settled in with anticipation. Thai food, with its bright flavors and contrasts, its attention to texture and color, is such a refreshing cuisine.
And the first flavors to hit our taste buds were a nice meld of peanut and coconut. Then we realized the chunks of skewered chicken were cold.
It's this fundamental attention to cooking that Thai Emerald must work on.
Servers are gracious, helpful and knowledgeable about the menu.
The interior – minty walls studded with typical Thai wood carvings and some framed mosaic artwork, glittering scenes of houses and rivers – is pleasant and calming. Faux orchids at each table and jazz that's occasionally turned up too loud are the only off notes.
Many of Thai Emerald's flavors are marvelous, like that satay's peanut sauce, or the well-balanced, sweet-sour tang of a simple cucumber and red onion salad, or the red curry paste served with a whole red snapper.
But so many problems.
Duck, sauteed with basil and vegetables, arrived with not much duck to begin with, and then a third of it was cooked to jerky-like toughness, and a third was bits of mostly fat.
In a plate of the wide rice noodles called pad see ew, which was notably small in portion, snow peas were burnt, and flavor was practically nonexistent.
The Thai meat salad called larb also lacked flavor and had, rather than the promised ground meat, tough strips of beef.
A stuffed chicken wing skimped on stuffing, a shame since that stuffing – of water chestnuts and glass noodles – boasted more taste than the chicken.
The menu, as broad as most Thai menus in town, is perhaps too much to cover for this small operation. Let's hope it can regroup and refine, since the area – Northcross in Huntersville – can use the addition.