At Mukda Thai Cuisine, which chef Wisut Kaeoasdangkul named for his wife and business partner, my "bbq" beef salad is sparked with intrigue. There's the lively interplay of chili, lime and fresh mint, the pleasing staccato crunch, crunch, crunch of what turns out to be not peanuts but ground rice. As it turns out, some, but not all, expectations are met.
Comfort and service matter, and this little freestanding building featuring plate glass windows can be drafty, the heating uneven. The service, too. One night, it's nearly half an hour before our order is taken. Food comes sporadically, some diners left waiting for their plates.
When the resonant chicken coconut lime soup finally arrives, it warms me to the bone. A terrific hot and spicy tom yum soup, ordered with chicken, is spiced up even more on request. But there's no beef tendon for the beef tendon soup listed on the menu; instead, a friend orders the soup with beef balls, which are rubbery and bland. An appetizer of tender, smoky chicken satays, though, rises far above the cliche. And chicken curry pastry puffs stuffed with chicken and pork come out flaky and satisfying.
I'm taken with fragrant, sliced roasted duck, served simply over rice. Duck succeeds, as well, in an electrifying red curry with tomatoes and pineapple. My Chu chee shrimp curry, made with mushrooms, tickles the palate without scorching it. But sauteed Chinese broccoli is undermined by crispy pork that's mostly gristle and fat.
A better choice is kao soy, a soupy dish of fried egg noodles with a megawatt pork red curry sauce. Another appealing noodle dish is gai-kua, a toss of sauteed noodles with chicken, squid and egg.
For $22, two people can easily share a whole steamed fish. We had red snapper with a nuanced ginger, mushroom and bean sauce and thought it fresh and delicate.
Dinner ends with mellow Thai pumpkin custard.
I leave in the hope that Mukda will evolve over the next few months, to achieve its full potential.