After we left the insurance office yesterday we tried to go to a tapas restaurant nearby that we had eaten at once before, but sadly, as we pulled in the parking lot we saw it was yet another casualty of the recession. Instead, we opted for Panna Thai, located at the very South end of Fort Apache, just past Russell. We have eaten at Panna Thai several times since our trek to Thailand in 2007, and would go more frequently if it was in our neck of the woods since it is one of the better Thai restaurants we've found in Vegas. The decor is certainly better than any other Thai restaurant in the valley, of which the best part is a massive six panel shimmering gold painting of two elephants facing one another. I took a picture of it (below) to show my friend Katie because earlier in the day we had been talking about her deep love for elephants, which subsequently led to her elephant tatoo. Any elephant lover or Southeast Asian art enthusiast should really come see the panels in person.
After we sat down we took note of the lunch specials, reasonably priced at $6.95 and $7.95, but opted to order our favorites on the menu instead since we don't get out here very often. Ian was somewhat frugal and ordered the larb ($8.50) but I wasn't frugal at all and ordered the spicy basil clams ($14.95). Larb is a Thai specialty made with either ground beef, pork, or chicken that has been tossed with slivered red onions, cilantro, chilies, lime juice, and toasted rice powder. It is served with a crispy wedge of cool cabbage that you break apart in order to use the leaves as chip-like utensils. The larb at Panna Thai is a well done version because they use an adequate amount of toasted rice powder, which gives a nutty flavor to the meat, and an adequate amount of lime juice, which helps to cut through the fat. It's addictive and certainly worth trying if you haven't before. My spicy basil clams were not quite as fresh as they have been in the past, and were slightly over-cooked, but the fantastic flavor was still the same. The clams are served on a sizzling platter with sauteed onions and bell peppers, in addition to the basil and chilies. The sauce reduces to a wonderful sweet and spicy syrup as you are eating, which is great for pouring over the side of Jasmine rice they bring you in an adorable tin cup.
Though only one clam shell in my dish was broken (none would be better) I managed to get a small piece of shell from that single clam in one of my first bites and nearly broke one of my teeth. This is never a fun experience, as Ian can attest to. If there is any sort of physical contamination in a dish, he always seems to be the one to get it. He once found a piece of brillo pad in a cup of soup, a pebble in a salad, and the tip of a lobster claw in a sashimi dish (this was at Joel Robuchon so these things can happen anywhere). Luckily, we survived yet another meal, and I won't hold it against Panna Thai.
Today's Food Rating: 7
Would we go back? YES, IF IN THE AREA
Tip: Go to Panna Thai on a nice day and play a round at the neighboring Putt Park miniature golf course after you eat. It's kind of an odd location since the course is built in the middle of the parking lot, but it looked well maintained and it's the only outdoor mini golf I've seen in Las Vegas since Scandia closed.