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.