POSTED ON APRIL 24, 2013:
My Thai Secret
Thai barbecue in Owasso serves up authenticity
We all have our secret places -- the hole-in-the-wall restaurants that no one seems to know about, but serve that one dish that we crave. It isn't about ambience, or location, it's about the food. For this reviewer, Tavin's Thai Grill fits this description perfectly. To the citizens of Owasso, Tavin's delicious Thai cuisine is no secret. Located at the back of a strip mall near the Owasso movie theater, Tavin's is cooking up traditional Thai dishes while also grilling up ribs and chicken.
My first visit to Tavin's, I was skeptical. Thai food? In Owasso? But then I was introduced to some of my new favorite foods. I crave it and no other place does it quite the way Tavin's does. I happily drove the short distance on a Saturday night to try some new things on their menu along with some of my favorites. The small restaurant with plastic table cloths and fluorescent lights was abuzz with guests eating happily.
Their menu includes a wide variety of Thai specialties and barbecue. You can start your meal with a crispy fried spring roll ($5.99), Thai Satay-Grilled Chicken or Beef ($6.99) marinated in Thai spices or sample something from their grill like their Grilled Shrimp ($8.99). The next part of the menu is one that is probably the most often overlooked on any menu -- soups. At Tavin's, though, the soups are nothing short of magical.
Thai cuisine has a variety of delicious soups that are more like a full meal and not just a starter. Tavin's Tom Yum ($7.99) is a traditional Thai soup that is a spicy and sour broth seasoned with lemongrass and lime juice, with mushroom, bell peppers, tomato and cilantro. If you have not tried Tom Yum before, Tavin's is an excellent place to start. My personal favorite -- and new obsession -- is the Tom Kha Soup ($8.59) which is basically the same ingredients as Tom Yum but with the addition of creamy coconut milk. In addition to the lemongrass, a type of Thai ginger called galangal along with kaffir lime leaves give this soup an unbelievable flavor. Forget chicken noodle soup, this is comfort food.
Tavin's soup is served in a large silver container with a lid. When the lid comes off, the aroma wraps around you like a warm blanket. You may think upwards of $8 is pricey for soup, but you can count on taking some home. The flavors in Tavin's soup marry together blissfully, with just a touch of heat, a touch of sweet from the coconut milk, and the tang of the lemongrass.
The Seafood Combination ($11.99) is my go-to for the best of all worlds. It is a mixture of Tom Yum with some coconut milk and then a host of delicious creatures from the sea. The broth is laden with bay scallops, mussels, plump shrimp, flaky yet firm whitefish, and squid. My dining companion likes to refer to this as "Leviathan soup" and he's got it right. This soup has monster flavor and is filled to the brim with a boatload of seafood delicacies.
Usually I only come for the soup, but decided I should live a little and try something else on their vast menu of options. Their rice and noodle dinners run the gamut of traditional Thai fare. Fried rice starting at $7.59 can include beef, chicken, shrimp or pork. Nothing too exotic for the rice dishes, but when you dive into the noodle dishes, it starts getting a little more authentic. Selections like Rard Nar ($8.29) features rice noodles topped with broccoli, sautéed in a mild black bean sauce with your choice of beef, chicken or pork. I decided to go with the quintessential Thai noodle dish, Pad Thai ($7.99) with your choice of chicken or shrimp. I chose the shrimp to top off my Pad Thai and I couldn't have been more pleased.
The rice noodles are a wonderful texture anyway and these were cooked beautifully. The shrimp were plump, pink and fresh. The sauce, however, didn't really impress me. I must say that Pad Thai is not typically a favorite of mine, but the mixture of spice and peanut didn't have much zing, even after a healthy squirt of lime juice. It tasted good, but for die-hard Pad Thai fans, this would probably not live up to your expectations.
There aren't many Thai barbecue places around, so it was a must to try something off Tavin's grill. By looking at the plates of those dining around me, I could tell the Thai BBQ Chicken ($8.99) was a true fan favorite. They also do a mean barbecue rib, I am told, along with a couple of fish options. I went for the tried-and-true BBQ Chicken which came with my choice of shrimp fried rice or steamed rice. I opted again for those tasty little shrimps. The order came with three pieces of chicken -- a leg, thigh and breast -- chargrilled to a lovely mahogany and a sweet sauce for dipping. The chicken had great flavor and the texture was quite good. Again, the shrimp stole the show and the fried rice was not your typical plain starchy side. It was quite possibly some of the best fried rice I've ever had. It even, ever-so-slightly, outshined the chicken. Not that the chicken wasn't good, it just wasn't spectacular.
I was too full to even consider trying Tavin's curry dishes, which are also plentiful, but definitely plan on doing so on my next visit. And, yes, there will be a next visit. Tavin's is one of those places that you find one dish that is so mind-blowing it keeps you coming back for more. With their huge menu, there is something for everyone. I, for one, cannot get enough of their Tom Kha soup, but overall, the food is prepared wonderfully, the ingredients are fresh and they always treat you like family.
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