Dara Thai brings authentic flavors to Anthem
By Andrew Leach
Hidden in a grocery store strip mall sits an exotic culinary gem. Dara Thai has a wide variety of dishes and some of the most delightful orange chicken around.
Located near Sweetheart’s Donuts and tucked in behind Papa Murphy’s, it’s open for lunch and dinner and has a quaint atmosphere inside. The décor is simple, but clean and tasteful.
Thai food has an emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and can have a spicy edge. Thai cuisine is widely considered one of the most popular cuisines in the world.
We decided as a group to try two appetizers to start off the meal. The first was the crab wontons ($4.95). These are six little wonton pillows of deliciousness served with sweet and sour sauce for dipping. Inside the wonton wrappers is a cream cheese and crab mixture. The flavoring has an additional seasoning that makes it far better than traditional crab wontons that we’ve had in the past. The next appetizer we tried was the satay ($6.95). The dish features four large chicken tenders that are marinated in yellow curry powder. They are then grilled on bamboo skewers, like a kabob. Perfect for two people to share, the dish is served with a cucumber salad and peanut dipping sauce, as well as toast points.
This is where I want to explain about curry a bit. Many people see the word curry and automatically get nervous about extra heat from the spice. The curry itself may not be hot at all; it’s a mixture of seasonings that may sometimes include turmeric, which gives off the yellow color. Many different styles of curry are around and some have more heat than others.
After the appetizers we moved on to the entrée. The first entrée we enjoyed was chicken pad Thai ($8.95). It has rice noodles, cabbage, bean sprouts, and crushed peanuts. The rice noodles soak up the sweet and sour sauce it’s cooked in, and has nice little bites of chicken so you won’t need a knife. It’s best to spear a piece of chicken and swirl it around on the plate to get it wrapped in rice noodles. The rice noodle is a thinner noodle, but they fill you up quickly.
We also ordered the gaeng gai Phuket ($9.95). This is under the curry selections, which do tend to have more meat to them. This dish is duck that is roasted and then sliced into bite size pieces. It’s served on top of a red curry and coconut sauce stew. Mixed in with the sauce and the duck are pieces of pineapple, tomatoes, spinach, and steamed broccoli. It’s served with a bowl of jasmine rice on the side. The mixture of the coconut milk and the red curry makes a great sauce, especially when you add in bites with the sweetness of the pineapple or the tartness of the tomato. The duck is cooked well and has the consistency and flavor of barbeque pork at some Asian restaurants.
The next dish we had was the orange chicken ($9.95). It’s served with jasmine rice and the chicken has a lightly breaded coating, almost like tempura. The orange sauce is flavorful and has the consistency of a light syrup. Featuring all white meat nuggets of chicken that is coated in the sauce, the chicken was crispy.
All dishes are offered in five different spice levels, to meet the each diner’s specific palate. The heat level may also be adjusted with an optional jar of chili paste so you can add extra heat as you are eating. While some dishes are difficult to order by name, it’s very common to order a dish by menu number. This ability takes out the stress of trying to not botch pronunciation to the wait staff.
The staff is ultra friendly and tries to accommodate most requests––including making sure the heat level of a dish is zero, if desired. They have different curries and a variety of vegetarian options. Monday through Friday during lunch, they have a few lunch special options available.
Dara Thai Café
3655 W Anthem Way, Anthem.
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