Owner Supawan Pimsakul hails from Thailand and learned to cook from her mother. She is the master chef, creating the dishes and the menu. In the U.S. since 1980, Pimsakul said it was her family that encouraged her to open her first restaurant, Bangkok, in San Jose, in 1990. Other restaurants followed in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, but it was the Mountain View location that thrived.
Amarin's huge menu caused my head to spin. The restaurant wisely has a separate vegetarian menu but all the vegetarian dishes are included in the main menu as well.
If I had to choose one stand-out dish it would be the pumpkin red curry with chicken ($10.99): red and green bell peppers, chunks of pumpkin, tender chicken chunks and sweet basil. I wasn't quite prepared for the first bite. The spiciness took my breath away. My taste buds quickly adjusted and the soup-size bowl was a delight to dig into. Served with a vegetable soup appetizer, salad and rice, I spooned all the rice into the curry bowl to soak up the delicious broth.
The crisped spring rolls ($9.99) were a good starter. Served with a light plum sauce, the flaky, hot spring rolls were stuffed with cabbage, taro, carrot, celery, onion and bean thread noodles.
Another good appetizer was the angel wings ($10.99) — two crisp, deboned chicken wings stuffed with ground chicken and bean thread noodles. There was a tasty side dish of vegetables in plum sauce with cucumber, red onion and crushed peanuts.
A young woman seated next to us inquired why there were no chopsticks. Chopsticks were never part of Thai culture. Thais ate with their fingers until Europeans introduced Western-style utensils. She was happy with spoon and fork — and in Thailand, the fork is used to push food onto the spoon, never to eat with.
Thinly sliced barbeque honey pork with plum sauce ($12.99) had a crispy crust yet the meat was juicy and tender. Served with a vegetable soup, white rice and a small carrot salad, the rice had been rolled up tightly and looked like a small pillow on the plate. It wasn't just for looks. The rice remained compacted when forked and was an easy way to skewer both rice and pork on the fork at the same time.
I'm a sucker for spicy eggplant ($11.99) and Amarin's version did not disappoint. The eggplant had been sauteed with soy protein, tofu and red and green bell peppers. Soft and unctuous, spongy and absorbent, eggplant is more acidic than other nightshades such as potatoes and peppers.
The spicy basil clams ($18.99) were surprisingly good. The menu said "stir-fried" and I had a different idea of what that was — sans shell. These Manila clams were served in the shell. I was dubious but the dish exceeded expectations. The generous portion of clams was supplemented with garlic, chili, salted soy bean, roasted chilis, bell pepper and sweet basil. It was a dish of texture, color and subtle flavors.
Pad kee maow was spicy pan-fried wide rice noodles with sweet basil, tomato, chili and garlic. Order it spicy, otherwise it can be very bland. You can opt to add chicken, prawns or calamari. We chose calamari ($13.99). The squid camouflaged itself with the noodles, but there was plenty of calamari and oodles of noodles.
Because Amarin was perpetually busy, service was harried but efficient and servers took time to explain dishes when asked.
Amarin has offered Thai comfort food, warm and satisfying, at reasonable prices in a contemporary setting, for over a quarter century. They're doing something right.
Amarain Thai Cuisine
174 Castro St., Mountain View
Hours: Lunch: Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday noon to 3 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday-Thursday 5-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 5-10:30 p.m.
Credit cards: yes
Parking: city lots
Alcohol: full bar
Happy hour: no
Outdoor dining: yes
Noise level: moderate
Bathroom cleanliness: fair
This story contains 761 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.