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Del City's Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe packs a punch

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Basil Stir-Fry, in the wok during preparation at Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe in Del City, 12-28-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Basil Stir-Fry, in the wok during preparation at Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe in Del City, 12-28-15.

My friend brought tissues with him to lunch. That was my first experience with Thai food.

I came to the deliriously tasty and intensely spicy cuisine of Thailand fairly late in life, which is both happy and sad. On the one hand, I look back on my youth and regret all the curries I never ate and all the eye-bulgingly hot noodle dishes I never sweated my way through.

On the other, I am far from sick of Thai food. Not that I worry about that happening, really. When you’re sick of Thai food, it might be time to get a surgeon to remove your taste buds and just switch to a diet of gelatinous vitamin cubes.

My latest Thai crush comes from the extremely tiny and charming Del City shop Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe, 4535 SE 29th St.

This place makes Nic’s Grill look spacious by comparison. There are four tables. There are eight chairs. It’s about as cozy as you can get.

The restaurant seems to specialize in takeout, but it’s quite welcoming to those who want to have a seat. It’s also welcoming to weirdos who order a lot of food, which is what I did, so feel free to pig out, guys.

One quick recommendation: Because pad Thai is so popular, be sure the restaurant has enough noodles soaked before you order. Thai Rice & Noodle graciously made me an order of pad Thai, but the texture of the noodles was compromised, which affected the sauce, etc.

It tasted fine, but I bet it’s much better when everything is prepped accordingly.

All the entrees are $7.99 at lunch and $8.99 at dinner. Beef is $1 extra, and shrimp is $2.

The table favorite was the basil stir-fry, which has loads of fresh green beans cooked to a perfect tender crisp. Green beans are sometimes tricky — not done enough and they’re starchy; too done and they’re droopy.

The basil flavor really burst through, and the chicken was nice, soaking up the sauce and giving each bite a more substantial feel.

Another excellent choice is the green curry, though you should be careful with your spice preferences. My friend went all Rambo and got a 3 (on a scale of 1 to 3), so it was good, but sweet Sugar Smacks, it was hot.

Green Curry at Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe in Del City, 12-28-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Green Curry at Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe in Del City, 12-28-15.

Thai food is one of the best leftover meals around, but — much like chili — the heat intensifies after a night in the fridge. Just a head’s up.

While ramen is Japanese and pho is Vietnamese, Thailand has a delightful dish called boat noodle soup ($10.99 with shrimp). You remember in movies when a guy would buy a bowl of noodles from a boat? Shut up. It’s a thing. This is what he was eating.

Boat Noodles Soup at Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe in Del City, 12-28-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Boat Noodles Soup at Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe in Del City, 12-28-15.

I recommend shrimp for this dish simply because shrimp are easier to handle in soup. Larger chunks of chicken or beef have a tendency to drop back into the bowl and give the diner a splash. If you’re not a shellfish fan, consider a switch to tofu.

One of the absolute highlights of the meal was actually the appetizer. Fresh spring rolls with shrimp ($2.99 for two) are almost always delicious, but these were some of the best I’ve ever had. The paper was slightly sticky, but they were packed and rolled tight, making for a clean bite full of fresh basil and cilantro.

Shrimp spring rolls at Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe in Del City, 12-28-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Shrimp spring rolls at Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe in Del City, 12-28-15.

Do yourself a favor and don’t leave without getting a sweet lime Thai tea ($2.25), which is as sweet and sour as a Long Island iced tea, but more flavorful (and nonalcoholic).

Now, the fact that some folks go overboard with spices and end up blowing their noses as much as they do eating their meal shouldn’t scare you off. Thai food can be extremely hot, but it doesn’t have to be. Kitchens are just as happy to serve you a 1 or even a 0 on the heat scale as they are a 3.

If you’ve never had Thai food, it’s not too late to try it. As acquired tastes go, it’s about as easy to develop a taste for this sweet, spicy, satisfying cuisine as any.

Once you go Thai, you’ll never say bye.

Considering the friendly service and the wonderful food, I’ll be saying hi to Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe again soon. You should, too.

Print headline: Thai hard, Intense flavors and friendly service make Del City’s Thai Rice & Noodle Cafe a hit.

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