Photo by bearshapedsphere.
Santiago is experiencing a surge of new restaurant openings, and nowhere is the ever-expanding Chilean palate more evident than with the inclusion of Thai food into the repertoire. And while there are a number of Thai restaurants, with some of them serving great food, the formality and price of these restaurants can be a turn off to those of us who want something tasty, and even elaborately prepared, but who aren’t in the mood to drop $20 or $30 for the privilege to eat it.
Enter Lai Thai, a new picada (snack bar) in Santiago’s sprawling Bio Bio fleamarket. Lai Thai is along a strip of other informal, snack-bar type restaurants, where people wait for tables to clear, sit down, and order, without waiters, and practically without service. The great standout success of Lai Thai is due to the fact that the food is great, well-priced, and the restaurant is one-of-a-kind in Chile, though as one diner recently pointed out to me, “it’s just like being in Bangkok.”
The menu is small, with just seven items, including many people’s favorite, and a top seller here, Pad Thai. It’s a filling plate, with loads of chicken, tofu, egg and shrimp, though a bit light on the vegetables if you’re used to the American version. Chopped peanuts and a small slice of lemon dress up the plate, which is nearly always returned completely empty. Other dishes include the chicken satay, served with a peanut sauce, and which many people choose as a starter, to share. The shrimp with coconut milk and peanut sauce is also a hit, though they will tell you it is spicy, which to an American palate, it is not. Never fear, as they have a very hot ground pepper condiment to use, if you need more oomph.
Lai Thai has streetside and inside seating, with the former being more popular, as it is airier and more spacious, though with just a handful of tables, you’re as likely as not to wait for one to clear up. Drink offerings are limited at Lai Thai itself, but the place next door sells delicious mixed and single-fruit juices, and you can buy a soda or water nearby. Two additional locations are in Providencia at Luis Thayer Ojeda 0108, Local 203, and at Irrarázaval 1031 (near Salvador) in Ñuñoa.