When was the last time you ate Thai food, and what’d you have? We were thinking about this question during our team dinner at the newly opened 26 Thai Kitchen and Bar at Lindbergh Center. Answer: a while ago, and Pad Thai, probably. And we ordered our beloved Pad Thai for, like, every time before that with the exception of an occasional Massaman Curry. Yes, our collective Thai orders were stuck in a big, boring Pad Thai rut. Thankfully, Niki, the owner of 26 Thai, promptly yanked us out this rut with her and executive chef Rattana Panawong’s menu of inventive, elevated takes on Thai cuisine.
Although still new to Atlanta, 26 Thai is noticeably bringing new life to the casual fine dining scene. And it’s worth mentioning the significance of the name: 26 because that’s how old Niki was when she achieved her goal of opening her own restaurant. She takes it seriously and you can tell from the details, both in the design and the food: the space is open with high ceilings, large windows, cool lighting pieces, exposed brick and a large floral arrangement in the center of the main dining room.
A cuisine all about balance, theses dishes can be a little spicy, little sweet and little sour all at once. The balance shines through each concoction, beginning with the original cocktails. The special while we visited employed St-Germain, but the floral wasn’t overdone—if you’ve ever had a cocktail, cookie, tea or anything whose creator went heavy with the florals, you know the importance of keeping it light and balanced (too much floral can be like licking up grandma’s old, pungent perfume and it’s just not pleasant). Our meal featured creative dishes with beautiful presentation, and standouts like the creamy Coconut Soup, crispy Yum Soft Shell Crab and the Kao-Ka-Moo, a delicate slow-braised pork in five-spice stew with Chinese broccoli and pickled mustard with jasmine rice. For dessert, we tried the Thai Custard, which Niki presents as an authentic answer to oversaturated Mango Sticky Rice.
And here, Niki and Chef Rattana aren’t the only passionate people at work. The staff not only knows the food, but seems to actually care, from ingredients to wine pairing suggestions. And honestly, it’s just more engaging and enjoyable when everyone is as excited about what you’re about to eat as you are. In sum, the ambience, food and enthusiastic vibes make for an invigorating dining experience that exceeds expectations and dug us out of our Pad Thai Noodle hole.
Coconut Soup, $5
Creamy coconut soup with galangal and mushroom
Yum Soft Shell Crab, $13
Crispy soft shell crab with green apple salad served with Thai chili-lime vinaigrette
Steamed Thai dumplings stuffed with shrimp and chicken
Tofu & Eggplant, $12
Spicy crispy tofu , sautéed with eggplant in roasted red chili sauce
Whole Red Snapper, $26
Fried Red snapper served with okra, pumpkin, ginger, red bell pepper, and zucchini topped with Thai chili sauce
26 Thai Kitchen & Bar is celebrating their Grand Opening from Friday, September 30 to Sunday October 2 with daily specials in their Lindbergh Center location.