Ploy Thai (Brandon)

Ploy Thai was one of the first Thai restaurants I fell in love with when I first moved to the Brandon area back in 2005. The inside is decorated as lavishly as any other Thai restaurant, but there is something about the quality of the food and service that I enjoy after every visit. The quiet atmosphere is relaxing and when I came back from a week-long trip of eating and traveling for spring break last year in San Francisco , the mecca of great food, the first place I wanted to go when I returned was Ploy Thai. My last visit was after finals. I was craving some Thai food after hours of studying and I thought of the relaxing environment of Ploy Thai almost instantly when I started thinking of restaurants in the Brandon area.

Fun fact: Ploy Thai is named after the owner’s daughter, Ploy, which means “little gem” in Thai.

I never intend to order soup, but I find it hard to resist once I look at an item on the menu and think about the last time I enjoyed one. The Tom Kha Gai or Chicken in Cream of Coconut Soup ($3.50) started my dinner and I really love the lemongrass and cilantro in the soup and the coconut milk is sweet and leaves a nice aftertaste in your mouth.

The Chicken Pad Thai ($10.95 for dinner) is superb. I personally enjoy my Thai food non-spicy and Ploy Thai consistently delivers an excellent Pad Thai in this regard, I can’t comment on Thai hot flavors. The noodles are packed with flavor and the smell of it fills me with zest. The quality of Ploy Thai’s chicken is great tender and juicy, and their simple Pad Thai really hits the spot.

The consistency of the Thai Tea is usually made well and although you may want to ask for little ice so you can get more actual tea, the tea is usually reasonable for the price. Thai food is either water or tea, I find it hard to drink anything else with it.

Overall, Ploy Thai consistently has great food and service and I have enjoyed every visit here in the past few years. They have lunch specials that are $7-$8 if you’re looking to save a few bucks. Ploy Thai is certainly worth a look if you’re in the Brandon area and is located only a few minutes from the Brandon Mall. I have been to the Cross Creek location in New Tampa and enjoyed it as well.

Ploy Thai on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Ploy Thai

Cuisine: Thai

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1941 W Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 684-5007

Website: http://www.ploythairestaurant.com/

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The Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida (Tampa Thai Temple)

The Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida (or as I like to call it the Thai Temple in Tampa) has to be one of my favorite places in Tampa. Located right by Palm River, the temple grounds are simply beautiful with tall trees, picnic tables, a dock, and a golden Buddhist temple. Every Sunday they have a market where they sell Thai groceries, Thai teas/juices, and Thai food such as pad thai, curry, friend bananas, and various desserts. The grounds have a community feel with temple volunteers running stands and locals visiting every Sunday for their dosage of cheap and tasty Thai food.

I have been visiting the temple for about 5 years now. When I first visited the place was mostly just for Thai visitors, but has now exploded in popularity after some newspaper articles exposed this Tampa gem. The temple grounds have had to expand in parking and stands to handle the rush of visitors, but it’s still a beautiful and relaxing spot to spend a Sunday morning and afternoon. It’s located right between Tampa and Brandon, so not far from either side of town.

One of my favorite stands has fried bananas. I cannot resist these. A small amount is $3 and is plenty to get your fix. They also have a variety of other choices such as taro root and sweet potatoes, but banana is my favorite.

They are put in deep batter. Not sure how healthy it is, but hey it makes it taste good!

Voila! Crunchy fried banana goodness!

Their noodle soups are appetizing and my friend used to give me some all the time when I volunteered at the temple back in 2006. I am not a big soup drinker so I spend my money on sweets nowadays.

Look at that view!

The patio area is full of red picnic tables where you can enjoy your Thai food and hangout with friends and family. The trees are all around. There aren’t many outdoor areas like this in Tampa where you can grab your food and enjoy it outdoors.

My favorite stand where they serve Thai Tea and Fruit Juices ($1 donations are awesome!) and also occasionally serve my favorite Thai dessert, Kanom Krok (coconut custards). The wait for the Kanom Krok has gone to hours and I waited a good two hours for mine, but it was worth it. I love it that much. They don’t serve it every weekend, but when they do and I’m there I make it my mission to have some.

$1 Thai Tea? I’ll take 10 please!

The process of making the Kanom Krok. They use a special pot that takes about 20 minutes to cook. The orders pile up and increase the wait times, so get there early for yours!

My beautiful coconut custards (some missing due to immediate consumption). Totally worth the wait.

The Thai Temple in Tampa has a number of events throughout the year to celebrate Thai or religious holidays and invites the public out to these events. My favorite was their Songkarn or Water festival, which I checked out last spring. It was lots of fun, especially the water fight with the little kids and various adults. This temple is truly a great addition to the city of Tampa.

Wat Mongkolrata Temple on Urbanspoon

Name: The Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida

Cuisine: Thai

Address: 5306 Palm River Road, Tampa, FL 33619

Sunday Market: approx. 10:30am to approx. 2:00pm

Website: http://www.wattampainenglish.com/

Pacific Grill: An Asian Fusion Experience in Brandon


Spicy Pork Bulgogi

I recently went to Pacific Grill with some friends. I was pleasantly surprised with the authenticity of their food and the low prices for Korean cuisine. You can read more about my experience on my Creative Loafing article here: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2010/10/07/pacific-grill-brandons-asian-bistro-experience/

Pacific Grill on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Pacific Grill
Address: 3452 Lithia Pinecrest Rd Valrico, FL 33596-6301
Phone Number: (813) 657-8744
Website: http://www.pacificgrillvalrico.com/home/

See more pictures below:

Continue reading “Pacific Grill: An Asian Fusion Experience in Brandon”

Sawatdee Thai Cuisine

I took a new friend Yong Hoon to try Thai food for his first time this past week at Sawatdee, a USF-area restaurant located only a short drive down from the university down on 56th Street.  The ambiance is similar to many small Thai restaurants: decorated lavishly, quiet, and a nice place to have a conversation with a friend or two. Lunch specials there come with three courses: soup, entree, and dessert.

The chicken vegetable soup was satisfying, but lacked any real substance to it…something to just pass the time. We both ordered Chicken Pad Thai (only $6.95 for lunch) with my friend ordering a spicy version of the entree. I also ordered a Thai Tea because my friend has never had one and that is something I think everyone should experience at least once.

Your food critic =P

Yong Hoon trying Thai food for the first time.

Chicken Pad Thai…just looking at this picture makes me hungry.

The orders came out quick and although they accidentally gave me a mildly spicy version of Pad Thai, the waitress quickly resolved the issue when I brought the matter to her attention. I have to say that a spicy and non-spicy Pad Thai are almost completely different meals even though it has most of the same ingredients. My friend and I both enjoyed our meals, the noodles were filling and there was a nice balance in extra ingredients added in, it wasn’t overdone like in some other restaurants.

The small free dessert they pass out to end the meals gives the meal a nice ending and they have a rewards card for customers who pay in cash.

Thai mission complete!

Sawatdee Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Sawatdee Thai Cuisine

Address: 10938 N. 56th Street Tampa, FL 33617

Phone #: (813) 985-2071

Website: http://www.sawatdeethaitampa.com/

Jasmine Thai (Brandon)

Jasmine Thai in Brandon is a totally different experience from Jasmine Thai on Dale Mabry. I don’t think the places even have the same owner because the Brandon location has its own website. The Brandon location happens to be one of my favorite Thai places in town. Service is always prompt and food has always been excellent on all my visits. The restaurant has a very quiet atmosphere, even answering your cell phone feels like an unwritten taboo. I probably wouldn’t take many friends, but instead choose this place for a date or for a single visit.

Usually the place is not too packed and getting a seat is not too hard. During lunch they have a three course meal where you get soup, your entree, and some dessert for under $10. For Dinner prices go up a few dollars, but for the most part the meal stays under $10. I normally run the bill up a little higher because I love their Chicken Coconut Soup ($2.95) and it is quite hard to resist it. Their Thai Tea is also of good quality, but because of the price of Thai Tea at restaurants ($1.95 here) I usually save my Thai Tea cravings for visits to The Wat Thai Temple on Sundays ($1 Thai Tea).

Chicken Coconut Soup

Chicken Pad Thai

Their Chicken Pad Thai ($9.95)  is almost always perfect and they give you a large portion as well. I never leave this place hungry. They also handle to-go orders well and quality is not effected if you are in rush and can’t dine-in. They have a handful of desserts and my favorite choices are Coconut Ice Cream, Crunchy Banana Coins, and Jasmine’s Banana (Banana Coins with Coconut Ice Cream).

Jasmine Thai on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Jasmine Thai

Address: 1947 W Lumsden Rd. Brandon, FL 33511

Phone #: (813) 662-3635

Website: http://jasminethaibrandon.com/

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/jasmine-thai-restaurant-brandon

Food Adventures #002

This past week was a much slower week in food adventures. Most of what I ate was either home-cooked or some form of fast food (in fact I have been eating way too much fast food…such a waste of money and not to mention super bad for you). However, I did make a few stops worth mentioning.

Last Thursday I revisited one of my old neighborhoods out in Carrollwood with some friends. This trip was inspired by a trip to Mr. Dunderbak’s which a German friend of mine wanted to try out. After checking the place out and deciding maybe German just isn’t for me and trying some beer-battered onion rings at Mr. D’s made me remember how amazing onion rings taste at an old favorite of mine, we went to Gino’s Italian Restaurant on Armenia Avenue and Linebaugh.

I used to live right next door in an apartment complex called Deer Path so I was a regular at Gino’s. When I used to call them they already knew what I wanted just by hearing my voice, a tasty burger with onion rings and extra mayo on the side. When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see the entire restaurant full, this place deserves a crowd. We were seated within a few minutes.

My friends ordered dessert and I ordered one of my favorite burgers, their Mother Earth burger, which comes loaded with mushrooms and cheddar cheese. While we waited for our food I told some stories of growing up by here, a quiet neighborhood with nothing but a golf course nearby. My friend’s dessert came and everyone demolished it…great taste. I had sold all my friends on this place just with that.

Then my burger arrived. The fresh look impressed my friend. The lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on the side neatly cut. Just the smell was driving me crazy. When I took a bite into that burger it was like I had gone back in time because it tasted exactly the same as when I came here years ago. That is one hard thing to have in Tampa, where chefs are changing all the time and flavor rises and sinks all the time. The cheese had so much flavor and the mushrooms were fantastic. Even the onion rings were exactly the same, crunchy and juicy. Maybe the best onion rings I have had. My friends sampled them and enjoyed them as well. Everyone was wishing we had just gone here first after all my raving was backed up with evidence.

My only other food adventure was to The Wat Thai Temple on Palm River Road on Sunday. I arrived a little late in the day, but was still able to grab some Fried Bananas and those snacks are so delicious. They were hot and I burned my mouth, but I did not care because they were just that good. I will have to go earlier and cover more of their food in the future.

Restaurant/Venues mentions:

Gino’s Restaurant & Bar

Address: 10006 North Armenia Avenue Tampa, FL 33612

Phone #: (813) 933-1089

Website: http://www.ginosrestaurantbar.com/

Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/venue/1849405

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ginos-bar-and-restaurant-tampa

Gino's Bar on Urbanspoon

The Wat Thai Temple Market (Open Sundays from 10am-2pm)

Address: 5306 Palm River Road, Tampa, FL 33619

Website: http://www.wattampainenglish.com/

Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/venue/414273

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/wat-mongkolratanaram-of-florida-tampa-2

Jasmine Thai (North Dale Mabry)

The last time I went to Jasmine Thai was a few years back for a high school friends birthday party. I remember during that visit I was feeling really sick and the Pad Thai at Jasmine Thai made me instantly feel better. Considering how I was feeling earlier that day it truly was a miracle.

I recently returned to Jasmine Thai and was disappointed with my experience. The waitress was a little rude and snobby. Many people have noted having a similar experience recently so I’m guessing the current crew just isn’t providing good service.


Chicken Coconut Soup

The Chicken Coconut Soup had a pleasant taste at first, but the aftertaste was powerful and after a few tastes it wasn’t as satisfying. I had to take breaks from it in order to enjoy it…happy that it was just a cup of the soup.


Chicken Pad Thai

I ordered my favorite Thai dish, Chicken Pad Thai. On the surface it was your usual Pad Thai with the same sauce and ingredients you can have anywhere else, but after breaking the initial surface the Pad Thai was bland and was a disappointment. I normally cannot resist finishing my Pad Thai, but I had to actually think about finishing this dish at Jasmine Thai.

The Jasmine Thai and Ploy Thai in Brandon are far superior to this place. I wouldn’t return unless someone else really wanted to visit.


Complimentary dessert was nice though.


Little Half-Thai nephew joined in this time.


So did the sister.

Jasmine Thai on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Jasmine Thai
Cuisine: Thai
Address: 13248 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33618-2408
Neighborhood: Carrollwood
Phone Number: (813) 968-1501‎