Thai Emerald adds flavor to restaurant landscape
by Staff Writer
by Cathy Swiney
HUNTERSVILLE – Stepping into Thai Emerald is like arriving in Thailand without having to take a 19-hour plane ride to the other side of the world.
In the calm, quiet sanctuary you quickly forget you are in a Huntersville restaurant off newly widened Sam Furr Road as you dine on exotic and colorful fare that emphasizes freshness of ingredients with a harmony of flavors balancing sweet, sour, salty and spicy.
Thai Emerald manages to satisfy the tastes of Thai enthusiasts as well as those who are trying it for the first time, five years after it opened its doors in the Northcross Shopping Center.
“We try to make tasty, healthy food,” manager Darunee “Mai” Lertserikul said. “It is spicy but not too spicy, a little bit sweet but not too sweet. It is tasty.”
Curries and thick noodle and stir-fried dishes fill the menu. Enhanced with herbs and seasonings such as Thai basil, kaffir leaves, ginger, lemongrass and chilis, they are offered with a choice of protein including chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, scallop, squid and tofu.
An interior with walls painted the color of mint, the peaceful, casual space is decorated minimally. Lighting from pendant lights over booths and track lights provide a soft glow. White tablecloths add a touch of elegance to the meal.
Start off with an order of satay, marinated sliced chicken or beef grilled with coconut cream on a skewer and served with peanut sauce and cucumber salad; or spring rolls, chicken or shrimp with glass noodles and vegetables that are rolled in a wrapper, fried and served with sweet and sour sauce.
Curries and sauces in other dishes give the cuisine a spicy kick, but the kitchen takes a conservative approach to fixing dishes. Using a heat scale of 1-5, most dishes are prepared with a low heat unless otherwise requested and even then customers have the opportunity to kick up the spiciness.
“We give you a spicy tray and you can add (the heat) yourself,” she says. “We have one customer who comes in every Tuesday and orders eight spicy.”
As it is at most Asian restaurants, numbered items make it easy order without worry of mispronouncing a name. Among the numbers to keep in mind are No. 13, a salad called Yum Neua, and No. 21, a soup called Tom Kha. The spicy salad is made with grilled sliced beef, cucumbers, red onions, chili and tomatoes in a lemon-lime chili sauce. The soup is a combination of choice of protein, coconut cream, galangal, cilantro, straw mushrooms and lemongrass.
Thai Emerald offers seven curries in a rainbow of colors. No. 52, Gaeng Dang, is a traditional favorite. It features red curry in coconut milk with bell peppers, carrots, bamboo shoots, green beans and basil leaves.
Stir-fry dishes feature a variety of in-house-made sauces including sweet-and-sour, bean, peanut, sesame, chili and Thai-style brown.
Thai Trio is the standout. The dish of chicken, beef and shrimp stir fried with broccoli, snow peas, carrots, baby corn and straw mushrooms in a brown sauce is served in an edible crispy egg noodle basket.
A Thai staple, No. 43, Pad Gra Pow, brings together basil leaves, straw mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and carrots.
Pad Thai, a traditional noodle dish with sautéed eggs, bean sprouts, green onions and crushed peanuts, is a favorite and there are also duck and seafood entrees on the menu.
No. 25, Ped Gra Pow, features roast duck sautéed with basil leaves, onions, straw mushrooms, bell peppers and carrots.
No. 35, Poh Heang, is a combination of seafood steamed with glass noodles, chili paste, napa cabbage, straw mushrooms, carrots, onions, green onions, basil leaves, ginger and other Thai herbs.
Fried filet red snapper topped with basil leaves, straw mushrooms and Thai chili sauce comprises No. 40, Pla Rard Prik.
The meal will end well with sangkaya, egg custard served over coconut-flavored sticky rice. If mangos are in season, get it with the sweet sticky rice.