"I would cut off my left testicle if I had to drive through that traffic every day," my husband hisses as he plops down at our table, sulky from the traffic he gas-and-braked through for nearly an hour to join me at DanThai in Gwinnett County.
The strip mall restaurant, decorated with free posters from the Thai tourism board and framed 3-year-old restaurant reviews, is worth seeking out for its less than $10 Thai entrees.
Thai-red and hungry: Don't bother to take in the decor: The focus of this place is the food. Recover from Spaghetti Junction with a hearty round of appetizers. The basil rolls ($3.95) arrive at the table in 90 seconds flat. The speed probably means that they aren't freshly prepared, but I don't care. As my husband crams one into his smart mouth, the cheer comes gushing back onto his face like a man who sneaks into the HOV lane during rush hour.
The basil rolls, steamed pork dumplings and curry puffs ($3.95 each) are all sufficient, but the Golden Bag ($3.95) is the find. These deep-fried pork dumpling bundles are crunchy on the outside and squishy on the inside, with a sugary note of shrimp paste countering the heft of fried wonton.
Worth celebrating: According to owner Noy Savang, festival noodles ($8.95) with chicken, pork and tofu are served at temples in northeastern Thailand during Buddha's birthday festival. The slippery noodles may look murky, but the flavors bloom, joining the expected fish sauce tang with a startlingly background of anise and pumpkin pie spices.
Another creation that sparkles is the spicy eggplant with shrimp ($11.95). This dish, unlike so many at places that have kowtowed to Atlanta's fragile taste buds by dulling down their spices, does nothing of the sort -- medium is a proper medium, and hot will make you perspire. The house special is ample with bright pink shrimp, attended by Thai eggplant cubes and a kicky basil sauce.
If spice is not your thing be sure to order the Rama V ($8.95) -- this quirky concoction marries chicken and mixed vegetables with a peanut sauce -- think chicken satay meets Five-A-Day. Another tongue-tamer is the anise-honey pork ($8.95), which has sauce very similar to the festival noodles, just minus the noodles.
Thai-me for Dessert: I always tromp into a new Thai restaurant and beeline to the dessert list to see if my favorite food finale, mangoes with sticky rice, is offered. DanThai lists the dessert under the name of mango and sweet rice ($4.95). My sticky rice, neither cloud-white nor steamy, clung to itself in a gray heap devoid of both the typically generous amount of coconut cream and missing the traditional crunchy topping of mung beans. The mango, fortunately, was perfectly ripe and I slurped it up, thankful that some fruit can stand on its own.