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About this blog: I grew up in Palo Alto and now live in Mountain View with my husband, daughter and two corgis. After about a decade grappling with the law, first as a law student at UC Berkeley and then as a litigator around the Bay Area, I left ...  (More)

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The Most Delicious Thai Food is in a Strip Mall

Uploaded: Oct 5, 2013
It's always a bit tricky explaining to visitors from out-of-town that strip mall restaurants are among the best restaurants in Mountain View. Shana Thai Restaurant, located at 311 Moffett Blvd. is located in an unassuming building next door to a Mexican-Russian market and other strip mall eateries like Fast Pizza.

From the street, you might not guess that inside is an elegant, dark beige interior with shiny cherry wood furniture, stone tile floor, metal-backed bar stools, large photographic prints of garlic and peppers, ceiling fans with sculpted leaf-shaped prongs, and small red lights over the bar. Although the menu is slightly upscale, the service is consistently warm and friendly, even when I bring my baby or a couple of friend's babies.

Start with the Crispy Rolls ($7), golden-brown morsels you can eat in two bites filled with a succulent mixture glass noodles, cabbage, taro, carrots, and black mushrooms. It comes with a thin, sweet plum sauce. The Chicken Satay ($9) and the Green Curry Roti ($8) are also good choices. The roti is very buttery and it's served with a green curry sauce with eggplant similar in flavor to the green curry entree. I'm less fond of the Crispy Tofu ($6), which I find somewhat bland, but my husband, a vegetarian who has been subsisting on tofu and seitan for more than twenty years totally loves it.

The Tom Kha soup is especially tasty, a creamy sweet-spicy coconut base cooked with kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass. It contains asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, and onions and your choice of tofu, meat or fish. It's topped with fresh chopped cilantro and dark red chilies. You can ask the waiter to vary the spiciness of the dish depending upon your preference. I like my food medium spicy and the kitchen always seems to understand what that means.

The standout salad is the Beef Waterfall Salad ($13), a tangy composition of grilled sirloin steak dressed in lime, scallions, mint leaves, cilantro and chili. The beef is cooked well and the dressing has that special kick that makes people like me crave it from afar. I ate this dish all the time during my pregnancy. It's dressed with vibrant, spiral-cut red beets, as are several other dishes.

Most of the fancier entrees I've tried have been delicious — there are usually some specials that are quite good —but I'm particularly a fan of the simple dishes, the curries and the stir-fried noodles. It's in these more ordinary dishes that you can really taste how much care goes into Shana's food.

The best curries, in my opinion are the green curry and the pumpkin curry eaten with jasmine or brown rice. Since many of the best items on the Shana menu are sweet, the coconut rice, which is also quite sweet, may be overkill. The green is a green sauce of eggplants, asparagus, bell peppers, bamboo shoots, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli and sweet basil. The strongest flavors in this are the eggplant and basil. The pumpkin curry includes pumpkin of course, as well as an assortment of other vegetables. It's hearty, but more flavorful than most dishes described as "hearty."

You can order any of the curries, stir-fries, or fried rice dishes with a choice of tofu, chicken, pork, steak, prawns, salmon or a combination of seafood. The Pad Thai with chicken is the classic you've had at other restaurants, but somehow the noodles and accompanying vegetables have a brighter taste here. The Pad See Ew, also known as Phat si io, is another classic done well: stir-fried broad and flat rice noodles with broccoli and soy sauce, topped with a cooked egg.

The list of Soju cocktails contains some winners that pair well with the food. Try the Freshy, a cucumber juice cocktail, with the Beef Waterfall Salad or the Tom Kha Soup. The Singha beer, in my opinion, is a better choice with the curries than a Heineken or Sierra Nevada. And, there is a decent list of red and white wines. For non-drinkers, the coconut juice is cold, sweet and refreshing. Either the Thai Ice Tea or Ice Coffee is also a good choice.

I was of two minds about reviewing Shana Thai Restaurant: I'm not sure I want more everyone to know how good it is. I don't want it to get more popular and find myself without a go-to spot away from Castro Street, which to my mind is often too crowded to properly enjoy. But I've been to Shana perhaps forty times, and I routinely receive great service and delectable food. I don't think there is a restaurant of its type in Mountain View that is more deserving of attention and popularity.

Comments

Posted by Wait....What?, a resident of Gemello,
on Oct 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Tommy Thai?Probably as good and the prices are cheaper.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Oct 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Tommy Thai has a Cambodian influence. I don't think that it's really the same type of restaurant and I prefer Shana, but thanks for sharing another restaurant suggestion.


Posted by Tom Weiskopf, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Oct 6, 2013 at 4:46 am

totally agree - and wish you wouldn't publicize, it's already crowded enough! (and not sure how that is when it's so tucked away)


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Oct 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Maybe not the brightest idea to publicize, but it's been nearly empty a few times at lunch on the weekends.


Posted by member of another community, a resident of another community,
on Oct 7, 2013 at 8:12 pm

My favorites are the green curry roti, papaya salad and the pumpkin curry.
The roti is so much better than the ones served in restaurants such as Straits.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:46 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

The roti is pretty great. I like the papaya salad - there's something different about it from what I've eaten in other Thai restaurants, but off the top of my head I can't pinpoint what.


Posted by GSB, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 10:46 am

@Anita: I understand your sentiment but it needs to be publicized. The restaurant needs the business. Too many times nice restaurants have closed due to lack of foot traffic.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

@GSB - That's true. However, someone else was just telling me that most people who are interested in food are already aware of this particular restaurant. I'll branch out in future posts to newer restaurants.


Posted by Rebecca Wallace, arts & entertainment editor of the Palo Alto Weekly,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 10:36 am

Rebecca Wallace is a registered user.

Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely have to try the beef waterfall salad (and maybe a Freshy).


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Great - let me know how you enjoy them, Rebecca!


Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

"... but it's been nearly empty a few times at lunch on the weekends."

I assure you it has not been so empty on my weekday lunch visits. Shana is indeed a favorite of Thai-food loving friends and various connoisseurs I know.

The following might be relevant to your weekend lunch observation, Anita. In 20-plus years watching silicon-valley restaurant-business rhythms, I noticed that empty _weekend_ lunch service is the general rule, UNLESS some unusual draw brings crowds to the area. One such exception is downtown MV on weekends, with the pedestrian traffic and (Sundays) farmers' market. In contrast to restaurants located in office areas, or otherwise away from pedestrian flow, which routinely do poor weekend lunch business, if they even open for it. The quirk however of Shana is those three blocks separating it from the train tracks and the bulk of downtown restaurants. It's "off the radar" of the weekend crowds. A pity, since Shan's portion of Moffett Blvd, basically an extension of downtown MV, has other notable restaurants too, incl. the popular authentically Sichuanese Chef Zhao (one year old), slightly north and across Moffett; while in the same "strip mall" as Shana, Fast Pizza Delivery may not look like much but has stood respectably in comparative local pizza tastings, and also has demonstrated amazing fast delivery execution in the downtown area (currently tied with Amici's in my delivery-time tracking).

And I'll say it again here: Most restaurants, including exceptional independent restaurants, in the peninsula and S. Bay are located in some variation of strip mall. In that respect the Castro St. cluster of over 100 restaurant spaces is again an exception for this region.


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi Max,
Interesting observation about Mountain View restaurants clearing out on the weekends. I wonder why that would be. And thanks for the Sichuanese restaurant rec. I will put that on my list of to-eats.

Sunnyvale's strip malls are another great mecca for ethnic cuisine. As you and another reader have mentioned, Castro Street is an expensive location to place a restaurant, which probably makes proper pricing quite difficult for the restaurants located there.

Thanks for reading.


Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Oct 11, 2013 at 10:35 am

Max Hauser is a registered user.

My midweek lunch-trade remark concerned greater silicon valley, not just Mountain View (sorry if that was unclear). The cause is straightforward: employees eating out. So, weekdays in downtown MV from around 12:05 to 1:10, no parking space is free; long lines wait at popular restaurants like Sushi Tomi and Crepevine. But at 11:50 or 1:20, you can walk right in to those same places, and the garages and lots have space. Silicon valley's restaurant lunch crowds peak on Fridays, the most popular day for going out.

What's unusual about Castro St. is that it also draws some weekend lunch traffic, including from the pedestrian activity. That's missing at Shana Thai's location, as in so many other Santa Clara County restaurant sites whose major lunch business comes weekdays, from silicon-valley workers arriving by car.


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