June 1984 [click date once to show or hide the review]
The Gainesville Sun
June 29, 1984
Tim’s Thai Restaurant caters to exotic, tropical-Asian tastes
Tim’s Thai Restaurant
High Point – Food & Service
Tim’s Thai Restaurant, the first of its kind in Gainesville, is a tiny establishment tucked away in The Azalea Center, next to Norman’s Country on NW 23rd Ave. Although small in size (22 seats), Tim’s serves great food with authority and style at some of the lowest prices around. There is nothing on the menu over $5.95 and the value of every dish we sampled was exceptional. The cuisine is exotic with a Tropical-Asian accent. Coconut milk is used as a cooking liquid in one of the dishes we tried, as a marinade for pork in another. Hot chilis, curry, garlic, lemon grass, and tamarinds were other flavors that mingled beautifully throughout this delightful meal. “Brings you the best blend of the Orient”, a quote off the menu, is an accurate description of Thai food. The East Indian seasonings applied to a Chinese based cuisine, wedded to the Malayasian/Polynesian fruits and vegetables, add up to an exciting gastronomic adventure.
Owned and operated by Vaitip (Tim) and Fay Phangvivat, Tim’s Thai Restaurant is a small family run business. I enjoy eating at places such as this because of the high quality food and the pride with which it is served. Every dish was cooked fresh to order and artfully garnished. We were made to feel like honored guests, as each dish was served, our approval was awaited and graciously received. A third member of the family was often in evidence. Lee, the bright-eyed, seven-year-old daughter of the Phangvivat’s, loves to perform hostess duties.
Woven oriental mats and tropical paintings line the walls. The tables and chairs are wicker and rattan and various imported objects d’art make for a relaxed atmosphere. Two painted paper parasols adorn the bamboo shaded front window. This display is distinctive at night, but tends to confuse people during the day, as it appears to be part of the oriental grocery next door.
The menu is quite large and varied for so small an eatery, with 21 numbered selections, including four appetizers, two soups and 14 entrees served with rice and a noodle dish (no rice). We ordered Number 2, Porpia Tod (Thai egg rolls) at $2.50 for two and a Number 3, Shu Mai, shrimp and pork filled dumplings, $2.75 for three, from the appetizer section of the menu, trying to choose a balanced sampling from the inviting descriptions on the menu. As with Szechuan restaurants, many of the dishes are starred to indicate that they are hot and spicy. The degree of hotness can be specified but our waitress cautioned us that “Szechuan ‘medium’ is our ‘mild’”. There were three of us that night and we decided to share all the dished for sake of variety. I urge you to try this family style approach when dining at an ethnic restaurant because it’s rewarding to sample more dishes and it costs the same as ordering individually. The Thai egg rolls were quite different from the Chinese variety. The filling contained clear bean noodles in addition to the familiar shrimp, ground pork and vegetables and the dough in which they were wrapped was the very thin, crisp and delicate type I know as “Spring Roll skin”. They were delectable, as were the shrimp and pork dumplings, “Shu Mai” which differed, in seasoning, from others I’ve had. These can be had with fish sauce (Nam Pla) on request or light soy or plum sauce. The most popular appetizer here is Number 4, Tod Mun Pla, fish nuggets made with Spanish mackerel pounded with curry paste, mixed with … supply at times. They had run out of them the night we were there but I hope to try them next time.
We tried both soups which were very different. Tom Yum Goong, is a spicy broth with four large, luscious shrimp and straw mushrooms. The shrimp were fresh and the broth was quite spicy and had a refreshing lemony taste. The other soup, Tom Kah Gai, is a coconut cream based soup, full of succulent chunks of chicken and flavored with Laos root and lemon. Both soups were good and satisfyingly meaty. Number 13 Royal Pad Thai is a noodle dish featuring chives, tofu, bean sprouts, radish, egg and shrimp. This is served with little dishes of ground peanuts, sugar, crushed red pepper, and lemon wedges which turns this rather standard, stir-fried noodle dish into a delightful change of pace. Number 17, Pra Goong, is a warm shrimp salad that brought tears to our eyes from the fresh raw chili peppers it contained. The best way to deal with overwhelming spiciness is to eat something bland and starchy, not drink water as we automatically do. A mouthful of rice, bread, or a tortilla chip (if it’s a Mexican pepper), will absorb the hotness while water tends to spread the pepper “spicules” that cause the discomfort. … The numerous shrimp were large and delicious.
The last dish we ordered was Number 21, Hormok Pla, fish cake in coconut milk made with Bluefish and Thai spices and herbs. This was also spicy and flavorful, flecked with red pepper and reminded us of Jewish Gefilte fish in texture. Coconut milk, when used in savory dishes, does not taste as strange as it sounds. It harmonizes well with the flavor of fish or meat and lends an exotic taste and subtle aroma to these foods.
… All of the dishes sound so intriguing, I can hardly wait for a return visit to sample a few more treats.
There is a separate lunch menu, and though some of the selections are the same as on the dinner menu, the prices are generally lower. …
St. Petersburg Times
August 30, 1984
Don't go hungry when you go gators
1. Sovereign, 12 SE Second Ave.
Tim's Thai, 501 NW 23rd Ave. -- People have a tendency to get hooked on Thai food. Maybe because it combines the best of Chinese stir-frying and Indian curries and they'll make it hotter'n Jake if you ask. Tim's is tiny (thainy?), real down-home and has the best egg rolls (and duck sauce) in town.
9. Tim's Thai Restaurant, 501 NW 23rd Ave. (904) 372-5424. The town's abuzz about this new 22-seat restaurant. Tim's packs some hot Thai dishes that one seldom finds outside a larger urban area. Again, the prices are very low. Dinners range from $3.75 hormok pla (fish cake in coconut milk) to several $5.75 selections such as goong pad yod kao pad (shrimps stir fried with baby corn and mushrooms).
You can specify mild, medium or hot when ordering so no one should be left with sizzling mouth without warning. An absolute menu standout is the royal pad thai ($5.75). This is Thai noodles cooked with chives, chopped tofu, bean sprouts, radish, ground peanut, egg and shrimps, with little dishes of lemon, sugar, ground peanut and crushed pepper so you can season yourself. It’s a very colorful, flavorful entrée. For soup, try the tom yum goong ($2.50): four shrimp cooked in hot, spicy broth with lemon. It’s a dazzler.
During our visit, fellow diners were running next door to the beer/wine carry-out store. Tim’s evidently allows you to tote your own firewater, or in this case put-out-the-fire water.
Florida Trend Magazine
Inside Florida Restaurants
In Search of Gainesville’s Gastronomic Delights
For a different kind of hot, there’s the newest Asian kid on the block – Tim’s Thai Restaurant at 501 NW 23rd Avenue (904-372-5424). Tim is short for Vaitip Phangvivat, who, since May, has been introducing the locals to the wonders of Fla and Prig, Gai and Tom, Dang and Tod.
Tim’s tiny outpost is distinguished by a menu enlivened by chopped peanuts and coconut milk, tamarinds and lemon grass and thin slices of beef, pork and chicken transformed to new heights of flavor with curries and chilis.
Tim and his wife, Fay, and the kitchen crew deftly demonstrate at budget-pleasing prices why Thai cuisine has become so popular in the United States. By combining the best of several worlds – the spices and curries of India, the fruits and vegetables of their native Thailand, the stir-frying techniques of China – Tim and Fay churn out all kinds of temptations, from the lightest of spring rolls and the tastiest if curried mackerel balls to fruits mingled with cream sauce and showered with finely chopped peanuts.
Between courses there is a medley of soups, some spiked with coconut milk or loaded with seafood and others with chicken, and there is a splendid selection of curries, plus a few salads. All of it is delivered with great pride and caring.
The Gainesville Sun
September 7, 1986
An unscientific survey of Gainesville’s best and worst
Best hot food: Tim’s Thai RestaurantThe Gainesville Sun
March 18, 1988
Spicy entrees give Tim’s Thai its flavor
High Point: Royal Pad Thai
Thai food. In a game of word association, the term might be more likely to call up a question mark than the names of specific dishes or ingredients. For some who have explored this culinary territory, however, the association has grown into friendship. Several well-traveled local residents, when asked to name a favorite restaurant in town, mention Tim’s Thai.
… After a few encounters with Thai food, Tim’s style, my strongest flavor memories are of hot spices sometimes balanced with sweet and sour, and tartness of citrus, subtle coconut, curry, fresh shrimp and raw vegetables. If flavor is the melody of food and texture its rhythm, with the former generally attracting most of our interest, at least one dish I sampled was truly exotic in that this precedence was reversed.
The Independent Florida Alligator
March 9, 1989
YUM: … Tim’s Thai has the hottest food in North Central Florida.
The Independent Florida Alligator
February 4, 1993
Tim’s Thai Restaurant
If Tim’s Thai were a New England bed and breakfast it would definitely be described as “homey,” but since it’s an Oriental restaurant we’ll just call it “quaint.” … Tim’s Thai lacks the pretentiousness most Oriental restaurants seem to strive for in their décor. Eating there was like eating at home with mom serving casseroles on the Lazy Susan.
Adding to the atmosphere’s appeal was the excellent service. The servers were prompt and I even caught one waitress hovering around the entrance to the kitchen eyeing my glass of iced tea to refill it. (I have one rule about tipping. It doesn’t matter how bad the food is, if my glass of tea is consistently filled I’m generous.)
But let’s get to the food at hand. For those not familiar with Thai food, it consists of various meat and seafood curries and noodles served over rice. All of these dishes should be judged by two (and only two) criteria.
First, Thai food (especially the curries) should be spicy – and Tim’s food is certainly that. Most of the dishes can be prepared as either mild, medium, or hot. Believe these designations – they are not like the labels on store-bought picante sauce in which mild tastes like water and hot only adds a pinch more flavor. As one waitress once warned me (and I didn’t listen), “Hot is hot!” Only people who complain when Tabasco sauce is not included on the table next to the salt and pepper shakers should order their food prepared hot. Everyone else should stick with mild or medium.
Second criterion. Some Thai dishes feature chicken, pork or beef smothered in a peanut sauce. This sauce should be slightly creamy in consistency and semi-sweet in taste. Too sweet, too runny or too thick will not do. Tim’s Thai has an excellent peanut sauce. For those of you who do not like particularly spicy food this peanut sauce takes off some of the bite.
As far as recommending specific meals, I suggest the satay appetizer (skewered chicken marinated in coconut milk, garlic, ginger and curry served with peanut sauce) followed by the Gai Pad Bai Graprao (chicken stir-fried with green pepper, basil leaves and chili) or number 15 for the tongue-tied.
For those with a sweeter taste, I suggest the roast pork with peanut sauce (number 23) but don’t let me inhibit you. All of the entrees are good.
To end your meal, try the homemade mango ice cream. It was very fruity and not too sweet.
The Gainesville Sun
February 9, 1996
The spices are just right in a meal from Tim’s Thai
High Point: Fresh, well-prepared dishes
The appeal of Thai cuisine doesn’t depend on just one or even two flavors, but on a balancing act between four: Salty, sour, sweet and hot. Traditionally, it combines pungent fish sauce to provide saltiness, fresh lime or lemon for the sour, sugar to bring in the sweet, and hot chilies and/or cayenne pepper to supply the hot. When done well, it results in a harmony of flavors that can only be described as memorable.
The cuisine of Thailand also includes some exotic flavors like coconut and curry and depending on the blend, the curry can be mild, medium-hot or incendiary. According to the menu, the chef at Tim’s Thai can tailor dishes to suit your taste either way. The chef also does a good job of manipulating flavor components to produce the desired results and, unlike some Asian cuisines, doesn’t employ MSG to give them a boost. Instead, there’s a welcome reliance on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
The Gainesville Sun
August 10, 1997
Scenes from the table: A look back at past repasts
It’s rumored that M.F.K. Fisher once said, “You can’t be a restaurant critic unless you’re one of those ambitious sorts, willing to walk on your grandmother’s grave.”
It’s not true. My grandmother’s grave notwithstanding, all it takes to be a good restaurant critic and commentator is an open attitude, a good appetite and a commitment to the truth.
My reviews, twice monthly in Scene Magazine, are of necessity based on my own experience at a specific moment in time, i.e., the time in which I visit. I have no other criteria. Let your judgment be guided by the same.
I believe that everyone is a bona fide restaurant critic. I couldn’t be happier. The more people pay attention to what and how they eat, the more attuned they become to their own senses.
The following is a list of some of the restaurants in which my
senses have been at their happiest. There are more, of course,
but I’ll leave them for you to discover.
The Gainesville Sun
August 31, 1998
At Your Leisure
Sixteen restaurants in the Gainesville area have been selected for inclusion in Where the Locals Eat: A Guide to the Best Restaurants in America. The local restaurants chosen as “best” by area residents are: 43rd Street Deli and Breakfast House, Ashley’s Mexican and American Restaurant. Copper Monkey Restaurant, El Toro Mexican Food, Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille, Leonardo’s Pizza In a Pan, Pizza Palace, Steak and Pasta Works, Amelia’s Italian Cuisine, China Palace, David’s Real Pit Bar-B-Que, El Indio, Jade Gardens, Mr. Han’s Restaurant, Ruscito’s Restaurant and Tim’s Thai Restaurant.