Maybe you come to Clinton to visit the Museum of Russian Icons, or the Gallery of African Art. Perhaps you drive to this town, which is just west of I-495 (near Bolton), after a day of apple picking. However you end up in Clinton, make a stop at Thai Time for excellent food, friendly service, and cute decor.
We found Thai Time via a friend, who stumbled upon the restaurant and declared it the best Thai food she’d eaten since she lived in Bangkok years ago. The cozy, brightly colored space is warm and inviting, with vibrant orange on the walls, and whimsical artwork depicting tigers, elephants, and Chang Mai temples. We settle into a comfy booth and begin with vegetable tempura ($5.95), which includes bell peppers, onions, and carrots in a crisp batter with a sweet dipping sauce. Next, one of the standout dishes arrives, larb gai ($9.95), a ground mixture of spicy chicken and lemongrass with red onion and crunchy bits of toasted rice. We scoop it up with sliced cucumbers and iceberg lettuce on the plate, trying to resist downing the entire very large portion before the other dishes arrive.
Pad Thai ($8.95) is full of luscious rice noodles, chicken, shrimp, and a rainbow of tender-crisp vegetables, with the familiar salty-tart-sweet flavors we expect from pad Thai, but not enough heat. Next time we’ll ask for more fire. House specialties offer two of our favorite dishes, mango curry ($8.95) with shrimp, chicken, and juicy ripe fruit, along with more of those fresh veggies in a creamy yellow curry. It comes with plain rice, but don’t leave without trying coconut rice ($2.95), a delicious, sweet grain that cuts the heat of spicier dishes. Thai Time special ($9.95) is a hearty stir-fry of beef, chicken, or pork, with lots of basil, chilies, mushrooms, and green beans over a bed of rice, and topped with a perfectly fried egg.
The only disappointment is spicy fish ($14.95) which has an unpleasant, muddy taste. We quickly move on to explore one of several duck dishes. Boston Volcano ($15.95) is a hit, with crisp skin and moist and tender meat, flavored with tamarind and cashew.
On the phone later, owner Fawn Weydt tells us that many of the recipes are from her mother, a retired school teacher. After coming to the US on her own, and working in restaurants, Weydt opened the first Thai Time in Pascoag, R.I., in 2002. She was able to bring her mother over from Thailand to act as the culinary specialist for the restaurant.
In 2010 Weydt sold the original spot to an employee and opened the current location. She is excited by the growth she sees in town, with hip boutiques and two museums. Recently, the owner of a local Chinese restaurant looking to sell approached Weydt. She’s teaming up with a friend who previously owned a Chinese restaurant, and China Time is slated to open at the end of the month. Come November we might just follow our noses back to Clinton.
Catherine Smart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.