New Thai Replaces The Town's Oldest

Posted: May 22, 1992

If someone asked what the newest Asian-restaurant trend was, the answer would have to be Thai. But how many remember that there was a Thai restaurant in town long before there were any Korean and Vietnamese eateries?

In 1973 Thai Royal Barge opened at 23d and Sansom Streets. Back then, diners - unaccustomed to fiery foods - were often taken aback by the intensity of the seasonings.

The Royal Barge recently sailed away, but in its place there now stands its heir: Rum Thai. (Rum is Thai for dancing.) Some of what is at the new place is reminiscent of the old. The menu still carries the old name and the Royal Barge emblem. It simply informs that the restaurant is under new management.

In any case, Rum Thai is well worth a visit. The dishes are artistically crafted in traditional Thai fashion and the new management appears eager to please.

The decor is very unlike the original Royal Barge, which at one time had overstuffed, plastic-coated booths. Over the years, remodeling has given the restaurant a more contemporary look.

Today's Rum Thai is a bright, polished place with caringly prepared dishes to match. The menu offers variety and reasonable prices. Food will be custom- made to your desired degree of spiciness.

Tofu lovers will enjoy the deep-fried chunks of custardy bean curd ($3) with a bright-tasting peanut sauce. The spring roll ($3) is an excellent version, stuffed with pork pieces, shredded cabbage and noodles. Cakes of ground corn ($4.25) were served with the customary cucumber salad garnish.

Rum Thai does good work with the traditional chicken coconut cream soup ($3.50). The natural sweetness was muted with savory herbs. Hot and sour soups ($3 to $3.75) use tomato for a base and get their light tartness from lemon grass. They come with a choice of chicken, mixed vegetables or shrimp.

Other soups include wonton with shrimp and roasted pork ($3), and a bowl of hot and sour seafood broth filled with fish balls, shrimp, squid and bok choy ($3.95).

Rum Thai features stir-fry entrees as well as sauteed and roasted dishes. Our half duck ($13.95) was roasted to a darkened crisp yet retained juiciness

from the melted fat. It was meaty and rested atop a coconut-scented curry (I had it done maxi-hot) flavored with fresh basil.

Thai red curry ($8.50) was prepared mid-range on the scorch chart . It consisted of soft, ivory-white chicken and a soupy, creamed curry flavored with coconut and basil. It can be ordered with beef. Pad Thai ($7.95), the dish Thai restaurant diners seem most familiar with, did a fine job of contrasting the textures and flavors of noodles, ground peanuts, soft tofu and crunchy sprouts, and shrimp and egg.

For dessert, there are fried bananas ($3) served with the traditional thick condensed milk, and coconut ice cream to cool the taste buds ($2.75). Beverages include iced coffee and tea, plus a full-service bar stocked with beer, wine and spirits. Try the imported Thai beer, Singha.

RUM THAI

23d and Sansom Streets, 215-567-2542.

Open: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 4 to 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Price range: Entrees, $7.95 to $13.95.

Credit cards: Major cards.

Nonsmoking section: No.

Facilities for handicapped: No.

Atmosphere: Contemporary with some Thai artifacts.

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