Hopelessly addicted to the sweet, spicy, salty and tangy nuances of Thailand’s national dish – pad Thai – I spent the better part of a year seeking out the best version of the popular noodle dish in one of America’s most notorious foodie cities, Portland, Ore. And after tasting more than a dozen different pad Thai’s in that diverse city, it became surprisingly apparent that Thai Paradise in Ridgway ranks with the best.
In fact, as I tried them I found myself wishing they would taste more like Thai Paradise’s version and yet almost all of them fell short. Upon my return to the Western San Juans, it didn’t take long for me to confirm my impression.
Ordered with beef, the rice noodles pan fried with egg, bean sprouts, scallions, sweet radish and peanuts, have just the right amount of chewiness and are sweet, salty, and spicy. Ask for an extra lime wedge to bring out even more tanginess. Thai Paradise offers both a lunch menu and a dinner menu and most dishes can be made with ingredients to your liking including vegetables or organic tofu ($6.95 lunch, $13.95 dinner); beef, chicken or pork ($7.50, $15.95); shrimp, scallops or squid ($8.25, $17.95); or organic beef and organic chicken ($9.25, $18.95).
For some, pad Thai is the gateway drug that leads to more Thai flavors and dishes. A likely next step is drunken noodles where spicy pan fried noodles are served with egg, onions, tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, bamboo shoots and lots of basil leaves. Thai Paradise’s version is made with a chili sauce is full of both spice and basil. While the ingredients don’t look out of the ordinary, the Thai fried rice made with egg, onions, tomatoes, peas and carrots is anything but bland. You can take the fried rice a flavorful step further by ordering the pineapple fried rice ($17.95) off the dinner menu. It’s made with shrimp and chicken stir fried with rice, onion, pineapple, cashew nuts, raisins, egg and curry powder.
In what could be a menu all its own, Thai Paradise offers plenty of thick and hot curries. Available for lunch, there is massaman curry made with white potatoes, roasted peanuts, carrots and coconut milk as well as both red and green curries, each with their own ingredients and flavors. Off the dinner menu, you can go more adventurous with curry including the jungle curry, which is a spicier curry made without coconut milk. It’s full of string beans, bamboo strips, zucchini, baby corn and herbs. There’s also banana curry made with bananas, green and red bell peppers, onion, tomatoes and coconut milk.
Other house specialties at dinner include the seafood basket ($23.95): shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and tilapia; water chestnuts, green onion, white onion, cashews and chili sauce, all served in a sesame rice paper basket. Angel wings ($23.95) are all-natural chicken wings de-boned and then stuffed with onions, scallions, glass noodles, water chestnuts and spices.
It would take many, many visits to make a full tour of all the dishes Thai Paradise has to offer. If you find yourself unsure of what to order, go with the pad Thai. Your addiction will grow from there.
LUNCH: Lunch at Thai Paradise is quick and friendly. For a low price, all lunches are served with a soup of the day (always different and delicious) and a Thai spring roll.
PASSING THROUGH? On your way to Telluride for a weekend of fun or simply on your way home to Montrose after a hard day’s work? Call ahead and place your order for take out. No matter what your destination is, your family will be glad you arrived.