I am quietly freaking out a little bit, the way I do a few times a year, at most — when a plate of food catches me so off-guard that I just sit there chewing, stupefied, as if the next bite will somehow confirm that I'm just overreacting ... that it can't be that good.
But no, it is that good.
Here outside Peterson Air Force Base's gate, I'm not sitting at just another average Thai joint. There's something special about this place, and it starts with this red curry roasted duck ($8.50), swimming in velvety coconut-milk broth infused with the sweetness of pineapple chunks and a floral aroma and flavor of kaffir lime leaves. It's game, citrus and sugar — a mouth-hammer of rich delight.
If I ever come up for air, I might cry a little, or call home, or more usefully, ask myself why I haven't heard about this place until now, nearly a year after its opening. (WTF, airmen? You could write, you know.)
As it happens, it was finally a soldier friend who tipped me off. He was right to compare Thai Guy to Arharn, another Powers-corridor Thai stalwart, against which all locally should be measured. And at least in the curry department, Thai Guy can hang, if not blow everybody away.
The best way to test those milky waters is with the $8.50 lunch buffet, which includes a giant mound of rice and two entrée portions, plus a fountain drink. Though you can also order à la carte at lunch, the limited buffet (dished at the ordering counter for you, prior to paying) allows for easier sampling — say, four house curries between you and a dining mate, each served in its own bowl for cootie-less sharing.
We quadrupled down on the coconut milk on one visit with chicken green curry, pork Panaeng, Masaman and a seafood curry (all $7.50 à la carte), each a model of its style, save for the most minor of grievances that the Masaman could bear more peanut flavor, and the green curry more basil.
The seafood curry, showcasing mussels, white fish hunks and surimi slivers, also yields pineapple sweetness, as well as pinches of sugar and salt to enhance that sweetness in the broth. The green curry interestingly subs long bamboo cuts for the traditional eggplant that Sompit Epperson — mother and super-friendly employee of shy owner Exkaphan Ritta — says she uses at home in the dish. The Panaeng has no dominant flavors outside its curry base, which is a touch hotter than the others and simply wonderful. And the Masaman benefits also from the vibrant citrus edge of lime leaves.
Leaving those largely superior curries behind, one can also opt for stir-fried plates like beef broccoli ($7.50) or cashew chicken ($7.95), which are totally fine but more in the realm of Chinese food, really, and certainly less exciting. Thai spring rolls ($1 each) are also fairly classic in execution, with ground pork bits, glass noodles and cabbage filler, but they capture too much residual frying oil. (A Mae Ploy dip does help sweetly cover the error.)
Thai Guy's Lahb (commonly spelled Larb and Laab too, $7.95), however, is bulletproof, with generous mint and cilantro leaves creating a fresh canopy over my lime-drenched ground beef, requested and delivered hot. Epperson forgot to take a temperature request on our papaya salad ($7.95) and delivered it damn near Thai hot — made with two chilies, she said. I was in fire-lipped heaven, while my girlfriend suffered her one bite. Accompanying grilled chicken skewers were delicious, stand-alone-worthy treats.
Which left us with that one dish you can't not get at any Bangkok booster: Pad Thai ($7.95), ours ordered medium with shrimp, but delivered mistakenly with chicken. Even with the flub, the dish ranked among the better renditions in town — not blow-my-mind like the duck curry, but moist and peanutty and eggy enough, amply portioned like everything else, and satisfying under a lime squeeze.
Overall, Thai Guy gives the impression of clean cooking, leading with stainless steel wall borders, simple wooden booths and a restrained amount of Thai art on cream-colored walls; leaving out the MSG; using sugar wisely and sparingly, even in a beautifully under-sweet Thai iced tea ($1.89); and letting the curries and herbs imbue their inherent boldness into dishes to bright, fresh effect.
Whether it grants you a culinary freak-out I can't guarantee, but show me a more fruitful duck hunt, at least, and I just may shed those tears.