Tasty Thai
1302 S. 500 E.
Mon.– Fri. 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Mon. – Thurs, Sun. 5 p.m.– 9:30 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 5 p.m.– 10 p.m.

Great cities often have great parks in their hearts. Salt Lake is my city, and Liberty is its park. A lovely green space is a place of romantic possibilities, and for me, romance includes food and drink. Tasty Thai, on Liberty’s Southwest corner, is the only room with a view that has both. Its food is fresh, particular and consistent, and the lunch menu is a bargain and generous.

Tasty Thai specializes in curries dominated by strong flavors that have the ancient earthiness of Thai, but also a tang of vinegar and fresh ingredients, sunlight-bright on the tongue and sour enough to draw happy tears. Fresh rainforest smells dominate the vocabulary of many of the more common dishes served here, and some of the more uncommon dishes are great versions of what I think of as homey—some homey Chinese, some homey Thai.

The dining happens in a big, single room, windowed on two sides by parkward views, and colorful rice sacks glow a warm yellow down from the clerestory on a third wall. While not especially cozy, it is easy to be alone here, or alone together. The service is attentive and grows finer with repeated visits. The food is mostly good, and sometimes really head-turning. My impression is that everything on the menu says, “This is food the way we eat it—here, have some.” When I say this, I mean the flavors, not the heat. After you have formed a relationship with the restaurant, the heat they will offer you is just this side of chair-tiltingly strong if you wish, or blinding like brights on a semi on the highway, if you dare. This is a good thing. I get a side of the fresh-made chili sauce with my meal, which, in my experience, is unique on the local Thai table.

My dining consisted entirely of lunches, which are served until 3 p.m. The evening menu is much larger and more diverse.

My measure of Thai always starts with their indigenous salads. Thai salads are dominated by sharp and mildly sweet lime and kaffir lime leaf, with an undercurrent of anchovy and, hopefully, hot spice. I liked the Som-Tum (7.95) and the Larb (8.95). I ate the Larb with beef, but the pork is excellent, too. Som-Tum is a pounded green papaya and/or green bean salad with cucumbers and a little dried shrimp and peanuts. Both it and the Larb come served with a fist of sticky rice. It is best served very spicy, or at least pretty spicy, depending on your understanding of “hot.” The Larb salad is basically a minced fried-meat salad, brightly lime flavored, garlic strong and very happy indeed.