Thailicious comes from the same family that owns Fort Worth's two Thai Rice 'N' Noodle restaurants and Thai Select. Buoyed by a west-side Fort Worth fan base at Rice 'N' Noodle, it opened Thai Select last year, wisely choosing a spot just off Southeast Loop 820 and Hulen Street that has a dearth of authentic Asian places.
It has placed Thailicious in the Chapel Hill shopping center just a few miles north on Hulen, and the family is hoping that the third time brings even more charm.
A recent visit saw a surprisingly busy lunch service. Clearly, word of mouth counts for something among lovers of Thai food.
The dining room is long and narrow with a bar for extra seating wedged alongside. Magenta wallpaper reigns over crowded booths; crystal chandeliers add ornate touches. Diners, almost shoulder to shoulder, were lapping up well-made curries and noodle dishes, abundant on the expansive menu.
The lunch specials start at $9.50 and include everything from pad Thai to pineapple fried rice. And vegetarians, too, should thank the restaurant gods for this place; the menu is a veritable farmers market of verdant greens.
Feeling not so virtuous, we started with the crispy soft-shell crab ($12), one of many intriguing fried appetizers. It was nicely plated if a little lacking in portion: six small crabs arrayed in a semicircle, flanked by a pile of thinly grated carrot, atop a bed of iceberg lettuce. The batter was a bit lean and the crab's flavor muted.
Our next plate was the more healthful and enjoyable tofu larb salad ($9.50), with cubes of slightly warm tofu mixed with shallots, scallions, red bell pepper slivers and cilantro, all on a bed of lettuce leaves. The dish was like a rich man's riff on those ubiquitous lettuce wraps popular circa 2005. The mix of flavors proved fragrant and surprisingly light, especially if you tear off a piece of the lettuce and put the larb inside.
Entrees and chef specials get a bit more pricey, rationalized, one would assume, by the neighborhood's more upscale (than its sister restaurants) demographic. The scallop green curry ($18), creamy and indulgent, was nearly pitch-perfect. It was full of potatoes, mushrooms and red bell pepper, but for the price, we would have liked more scallops. And, alas, the sweet shellfish was cut too small for us to appreciate its texture.
Crispy basil duck ($17) had thin strips of the dark meat with a sweet, deceptively spicy broth. (We ordered the dish as a 4 on a 1-to-5 spicy scale.) Again, the vegetables stole the show because the duck was fatty and not as crispy as advertised.
The restaurant's service lacked rhythm, which is understandable since it's only a couple of months old. Twice our order was nearly taken, my companion was asked almost 10 times if he wanted more iced tea, and too many times someone tried to wrestle our not-done-yet! plates from the table.
When the service kinks are ironed out, owner Chatcha Varapas' restaurant should prove to be a good pit stop for dependable noodles and spring rolls, and authentic Thai dishes.