The other day went to Marnee Thai on Spring Mountain for lunch, since we had been years ago and enjoyed their spicy catfish. We decided to order from the lunch special menu, partly to save money and partly because the waiter didn't hand us the full menu, which we later found out is always available.
Ian had the Chicken Larb ($6.50) and I had the Spicy Basil Shrimp ($7.50). Both came with soup (pretty bland), salad (kind of), fried rice (shouldn't be called fried), an egg roll (no thanks) and a fried cream cheese purse (mediocre but crispy). For prices this low you really can't complain much about the unexciting and standard sides, but there are some other things you can complain about. The portion of Ian's larb, for example, was almost laughable (see below) and it wasn't served with a wedge of crunchy cabbage as it should have been. The flavor was good, however, just not as good as the larb at Lotus. My shrimp was of a more reasonable portion size, with a count of six fairly large and fresh shrimp. The shrimp had a nice snap to them (a good sign) and the extra veggies I asked for were crisp (come to think of it, maybe the portion was only bigger because I asked them to add vegetables).
Now, I love spicy food but my level eight dish was much hotter than Ian's level ten larb (see all the chilies and jalapenos below that were left over). Though heat levels can vary amongst chilies, this kind of inconsistency is not a good thing. I will say, however, that we REALLY appreciated the use of actual Thai chilies in the food, which hardly any Thai restaurants in America use, including Lotus of Siam. Usually ordinary red chili flakes are used for heat, which does allow a restaurant to better control how hot a dish is, but doesn't impart the essential flavor found in authentic Thai food. Thai chilies are delicious, and not too hot when used in moderation and for flavor - we had them everywhere in Thailand and were not overwhelmed.
Overall the meal was alright, and better because of the price. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here, but I might stop in again and try out the regular menu since lunch specials don't ordinarily highlight the best dishes of a restaurant.
Today's food ratings:
Larb lunch special: 6
Shrimp lunch special: 6.5
Restaurant Rating: 5 (slow service, drab dining room)