When it comes to aggregate review sites for restaurants, I've always been partial to Urbanspoon, so I turned to them for information. Friends, let me introduce you to the highest-ranked eatery in Mountain Home...
I love street food as much as (okay, more than) the next guy, but I still can't believe that this is what tops the list when you look at the Mountain Home rankings. Out of 83 votes, Chai-Yo has a 96% approval rating. Of course the rest of the top 5 spots are filled by a pizza joint and three Mexican restaurants, so obviously a military town, much like a college town, is focused on cheap, fast, flavorful and filling food options. Still, Thai street food? We don't have that in Boise, even with the food truck onslaught of the last couple of years.
Finding the place, that was the fun part. The address I found online only confused matters (and my GPS). After driving what was obviously too far we doubled back, this time scanning the opposite side of the street. Obviously, the trailer is hard to miss if you're looking the right direction. All in all, not a bad setup. Surprisingly, there was only one person, an older lady, working when I arrived, which seemed odd for a place with two phone numbers that's open eleven hours a day, seven days a week. I put it off to it being a holiday weekend.
The front of the trailer is pretty much covered in menus. The only space without some kind of menu was the container attached to the front of the trailer to hold take-home menus; that container held nothing but a very old receipt (note: this is the kind of thing I find charming, for some odd reason). This is probably a good time to mention that Chai-Yo operates on a cash-only basis, so after running to the nearest convenience store for a couple of drinks and a twenty dollar bill, we returned and perused the menu. I knew I wanted noodles, but my experiences with Pad Thai have been very hit-and-miss, and I was scared to order anything designated spicy, as I'm still a neophyte when it comes to hot foods and know that Asian chefs are seldom playing around when they use that designation. This basically left me with two options, and the promise of fried egg sealed the deal: Pad See Ew it would be. And spring rolls, of course, because I'm me. I don't think I'm capable of going to any Asian eatery without getting some kind of roll...egg roll, spring roll, summer roll, fresh roll, cha gio, lumpia...it just doesn't matter.
|Spring rolls, well done.|
Unfortunately, this is where having a kitchen staff of one caused a problem. Right after the cook dropped my spring rolls into the oil, several guys from the local Air Force Base dropped by for a bite, and while she waited on them my appetizer got a little overly-crispy. It's unfortunate, because aside from that they held their own against most of the rolls I've gotten from sit-down restaurants.
|Pad See Ew with beef|
Where to start with the Pad See Ew? Let's talk about the container, first of all, which was really good. As in reusable, heavy duty, made in the USA plastic. Not as good as Tupperware, but better than Ziploc, if you follow me. The portion size? Massive, more than though to fill both myself and my roommate for lunch (we split the dinner size). The noodles were cooked perfectly, the broccoli neither too firm nor too limp, and the beef flavorful and tender. The sauce was mild both in flavor and spice, just a little sweet, with a container of hotter stuff accompanying. Overall I'd say it was similar to my beloved pad gai, but not quite as good. The only downside is that it was a little oily. Okay, more than a little. I'd say that there was about 1/4 cup of oil pooled at the bottom of the container. Maybe it's the kind of oil they use, but for whatever reason it didn't bother me, and I'm a person who's usually susceptible to oily food. Maybe it's the type of oil used, or perhaps the fact that there was more than enough starch to soak it up? Either way, I have the feeling that the minor issues I encountered here were circumstantial, and I would definitely return. I wouldn't say it's worth making a special trip for, but if you happen to be in the areas, you could do a lot worse.
Food: Good, if a little oily and on the browner side of golden brown. B+
Value: Pretty standard for the style of cuisine. Granted it might not make much sense to pay the same for a roadside stand as you would at a full, sit-down restaurant, but I don't think there is a sit-down Thai place in Mountain Home. A-
Service: Maybe not overly friendly, but polite and professional. A=
Atmosphere: It's a roadside stand on a patch of gravel. B-
Final Grade: B