Angel’s a solid Thai alternative
There’s nothing quite like the beautiful burn of a well-prepared Thai dish to warm your stomach on a blustery, cold day. I love to torture my taste buds with spicy food. So I was pleased to visit Angel’s Thai Café, downtown’s newest Asian restaurant.
Angel’s, in the former Four Friends Coffee House location across from Rosa Parks Circle and the new Grand Rapids Art Museum, gives West Michigan diners another solid choice for Asian cuisine. A recent visit for lunch proves there is an insatiable appetite for all dining options from the Far East. The restaurant was packed with a lunch crowd and people were waiting by the door.
While Angel’s is good, it is not heavenly. Lunch started with a bowl of soup, though I’m not exactly sure what it was. It is not listed on the menu and that’s a good thing. The soup was simply horrible. The broth was flavorless and bits of greens and cabbage floated lifelessly in the bowl. Two spoonfuls was all I could muster before pushing it aside. I was surprised by how bland (and lukewarm) the soup was since I enjoy the fresh bright flavors of Tom Yum and Tom Kha soups, both of which are on the menu (ranging from $2.95 to $3.75, depending on the choice of protein).
So it was with some trepidation that I dug into my main course, Drunken Noodle, a Thai restaurant favorite of mine. I should start by explaining Angel’s menu a bit. Lunch is $6.95 for any of its entrées with chicken, beef, pork, vegetables or tofu. The dishes are $8.95 for shrimp, scallop, squid or imitation crabmeat. Dinners are $9.50 and $11.50 accordingly. I love the simplicity of the pricing system. It is a great idea. Though the pricing is simple, the menu is massive, even by Asian restaurant standards. There are 50 entrées, seven appetizers, five soups, two salads and four dessert choices. There is something for everyone.
Entrées are categorized into several sections, including curries, noodles, fried rices and Angel’s Signature Dishes (available for dinner only). Now back to the Drunken Noodles. I love heat, so I decided to go with the “hot” spice level. Diners can choose from no spice, mild, medium, hot and extra hot. My Drunken Noodles were scorching hot, a bit beyond my liking. My fault; lesson learned. Even the most seasoned spicy food connoisseurs should think twice about going hot or extra hot. It was the second spiciest dish I’ve ever had (only behind a vindaloo curry dish at an Indian restaurant in Detroit that caused some of the strangest nightmares I’ve experienced). All this to say: Err on the side of caution when it comes to spice at Angel’s.
The dish itself was delicious. Wide rice noodles were covered in bell peppers, onions, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and pan friend in a cooking wine sauce with eggs. I would order it again. My lunch companions had Pad Prik Khing (string beans stir fried with ginger in a gang pha curry sauce); Angel’s House Noodle (wide rice noodles with eggs, bamboo shoots, carrots, onions, and bell peppers stir friend in a yellow curry sauce). Both were happy with what they ordered.
The excellent service was provided by Julie Lee, a co-owner of the restaurant.
It should be noted that the restaurant is small. If you plan to go for lunch, make sure you beat the downtown noon lunch rush, if possible. Other than the soup, if I had any complaint about Angel’s, it is the décor. The tables and chairs look like they were recycled from an old Chinese restaurant and the walls are painted a garish blue. The decoration is an absolute mess.
But in the end, it is all about eating and Angel’s is a solid alternative to West Michigan’s growing number of Asian restaurants. It will certainly give XO, located a few blocks up Monroe Center, a run for its money. It is not the best Thai restaurant in West Michigan (that title is a toss up between Rak Thai in Plainfield Township and Thai Palace in Holland) but it is a solid contender. Angel’s is good, but the owners should know the devil is in the details if they ever want to be great.Angel's Thai Café ( Rating: out of 5 )
Where: 136 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday; noon to 3 a.m. Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
How much will it cost you: Lunch from $7 to $9 and dinner from $9.50 to $11.50.
Credit cards: All major
Contact: (616) 454-9801