Put down that tonic water. It’s not that kind of gin.
Edmond’s Gin Thai Fusion, 1333 N. Santa Fe Ave., Suite 123, might sound like a place to find a boozy, potable version of vegetable curry, but it’s actually the third restaurant in owner Lawan Rattana’s burgeoning Thai food empire.
If her name isn’t familiar to diners, her food is. Rattana owns both Sala Thai, 1614 NW 23rd St., and Taste of Thai, 1801 S. Air Depot Blvd.
Gin Thai Fusion (gin actually means “eat” in Thai) is Rattana’s third concept and the most upscale.
Well-decorated and quiet, the restaurant seems ideal for romantic dinners. My most recent visit included a few couples enjoying date nights.
The chill atmosphere is also nice for friendly, laid-back lunches. Service is uniformly gracious, but not overbearingly attentive, which means diners have the chance to talk without feeling hovered over.
A main draw of Gin is the varied menu. While there are plenty of classic Thai dishes from which to choose, the restaurant also focuses on regional differences in Thai cuisine.
It’s easy to get lost in the appetizers menu right off the bat. Thai spring rolls (three for $6) and Thai dumplings (five for $5) are always good bets. The spring rolls will give diners two or three bites apiece, but they will be blissful, crispy bites. The dumplings, similar to Japanese gyoza, are filled with minced chicken instead of pork, but they maintain that satisfying sticky, crunchy quality that will have you eating more than your fair share.
But if you’re looking to expand your horizons, get the gin tod mun (three for $7). Spiced ground chicken is packed around a lemongrass skewer and grilled before it is presented at the table looking almost like roasted chicken drumsticks.
The lemongrass imbues the meat with a light citrus flavor that pairs well with the sweet cucumber sauce on the side.
Sunny Pork ($7), which is akin to a Thai chicken-fried steak, is a little heavier. The pork is pounded out and dipped in a breadcrumb powder and fried before it is sliced. The pork has a great texture that plays nicely off the tart tamarind sauce.
One of my favorite Thai dishes is drunken noodles ($8.50-$13.50 depending on protein), but Gin’s version left me cold — partially because the three-star heat I asked for packed almost no punch, but also because the texture of the noodles was off.
The drunken noodles I love are soft from absorbing the sweet, spicy sauce and are set off by tender cuts of chicken or beef. This dish had thinner noodles that were almost al dente — something I’m not used to finding in Thai food.
I was stricken with a near-terminal case of jealousy when my dining companion’s order of beef panang curry ($13) arrived at the table.
The smell of the dish is intoxicating, heavy with kaffir lime leaves, basil and sweet coconut milk. Inside are flavorful peas waiting to burst through their skins and crisp bell pepper pieces alongside tender cuts of beef that require almost no chewing.
Usually, I love rice with my curries because it soaks them up and makes sure not a single drop of the deeply spiced sauce goes to waste. But Gin has me flummoxed with its grilled roti crêpe.
Folded again and again, the crêpe develops sweet, buttery layers so light a stiff wind might scatter them. Eating the roti solo would be a joy, but all those layers are perfect for dipping in the curry, trapping it just enough that guests can precariously lift each wedge to their lips.
Beef panang curry is a must, but do not overlook gin rama stir-fry (pork $10.50, chicken $11.50, shrimp $13.50).
I didn’t know what it was when I ordered it, and I’m still a little fuzzy on what gin rama is now, other than delicious. The menu describes it as a “special homemade sauce” with onion, green onion and bell pepper. It reminds me of a tangier version of General Tso’s chicken, except the meat is stir-fried instead of batter-dipped. The vegetables add texture and a bit of crunch, but the sauce is the star, coating each bite of chicken in a layer of sticky spices.
Some dishes have momentum, something that drives you to take another bite. Gin rama is a perfect example.
If you’re eager to try a few things, and you should be, go at lunch. Gin Thai Fusion’s lunch special starts at $7.95, including chicken gin rama. There are different curries on special Tuesdays-Fridays, as well, so you could get the beef panang curry and chicken gin rama for $9.95 with soup, rice and two Thai dumplings.
I’m not sure how long they’ll stay on the menu, but both the roast duck curry ($12.95) and crab fried rice ($12.95) are tasty specials.
The sweet, creamy curry sauce takes away the duck’s gaminess. That slightly mineral taste scares away many diners from trying waterfowl, but that’s not a concern at Gin.
The crab fried rice is delicate and freshly fried with whisked egg. The only problem is that the mild, sweet flavor of the crab can be overwhelmed by any additions to the dish. Refrain from adding soy sauce or the crab will be lost in all the salt.
Sala Thai is the first place many in Oklahoma City experienced Thai food, so it’s exciting to think the same might be true for Edmond residents at Gin Thai Fusion. The hospitality and the variety of dishes will likely draw customers back for many years to come.
Gin Thai Fusion
1333 N. Santa Fe Ave., Suite 123, Edmond
What works: Gin rama and beef panang curry are tongue-Thai-ing favorites.
What needs work: A three-star heat was actually pretty mild.
Tip: The restaurant is closed on Monday, which just proves Garfield right.
Headline: Gin yummy, Gin Thai Fusion’s focus on regional cuisine brings new flavors to Edmond.