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  • The high-backed booths remain at the new Baan Thai from the former Atz's ice ceam parlor on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Mango sticky rice at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Clear soup at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Thai fired rice at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • The wall-length bench seats remain at the new Baan Thai from the former Atz's ice ceam parlor on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Tom Yum Talay seafood soup at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Mango curry with shrimp at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Yum Pla Mueg -- seafood salad -- at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Sticky rice custard at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Pork Pad Thai at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Green curry with chicken at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

  • Thai chicken wings at Baan Thai in the former Atz's spot on Anthony Boulevard.

Sunday, April 30, 2017 1:00 am

Thai staple proves reliable in Atz's old digs

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Baan Thai

**1/2

Out of a possible five

$$$

There is no cuisine that has grown more in the last decade in Fort Wayne than Thai.

Perhaps it is the influx of Burmese to our city, as many of these places are owned by them. Or, maybe it is just Fort Wayne catching up to the nationwide growth of lighter, healthier Asian fare.

But not long ago, there was just one place for Thai – Baan Thai in the Coldwater Shoppes shopping center.

The restaurant still has a faithful following – there are plenty of “best of” placards supporting this on the wall – but there was a big change last year when the staple moved to North Anthony Boulevard in a spot that was once Atz's.

Its new digs pay homage to the old ice cream parlor. An attractive mustard paint scheme, new tables and chairs and dark wood accents almost make you forget how crumbling Atz's was in its late years, and the wall-length bench seats and high-backed old booths in the back have been refurbished to offer a glimpse into the past.

The food has not changed much. As the Thai options have grown, so has its quality.

There are much more authentic dishes out there with much more exciting flavors. Baan remains popular because of its consistency. The flavors are a bit muted, which make the non-adventurous masses happy but will disappoint those who want something new and exciting and who are not scared to heat things up.

Take my Gang Keaw Waan – green curry with coconut milk, peas, zucchini and basil – for example. I asked for it to be served “Thai hot,” which is as hot as it gets. What I received was what I would consider medium in terms of heat.

The basil flavor came through, the chicken was fine and the veggies were fresh and tasty, but the creamy curry sauce was too thin and it fell a little flat in terms of overall flavor.

The Thai chicken wings appetizer fell even flatter. They were crispy, big and juicy, but basically plain save for a tiny bit of black pepper. The “house sauce” was served on the side and was cloyingly sweet. It reminded me of duck sauce from a Chinese takeout packet.

There was way more sweet than spice in even the simple Pork Pad Thai. The stir-fried noodles were way too wet, so much so that there was a pool of liquid on the plate. And that sauce was quite sweet.

The egg did not cling to the noodles and the pork was pretty mediocre.

That's not to say there weren't some great finds at Baan Thai.

The dish that had the best spice level had a name that proved it – the Spicy Fried Rice. The rice was packed with bell peppers, onions, peas, egg and basil, and I had mine with beef. The slices of meat were tender, the heat level was there, and it had the exact flavor I expected from a Thai fried rice.

I also loved the Yum Pla Mueg, an iceberg salad of squid, onion, hot peppers and cilantro, dressed with lime juice and chili paste. The squid was cooked nicely, the flavor profile was perfect, and the lime juice made it somewhat refreshing.

The Shrimp in a Blanket appetizer was unique and worth having again. The jumbo shrimp were tucked inside crispy egg roll wraps just as they normally are, but the tip of these roll-ups was filled with peppery ground pork.

That addition lifted them well above the norm.

The Mango Curry was fantastic, but there was a struggle to get it. I asked for this red curry dish with shrimp and squid and waited 15 minutes after the rest of my party was served to receive it. My server apologized and told me the kitchen made the wrong order and they were working fast to fix it.

When it finally arrived, it had six average-sized shrimp and no squid. At that point, I just settled and loved it. The balance between the sweet, ripe mango, crunchy carrots and the curry was perfect. It had some red pepper flakes on top that added some heat but still was not as hot as I requested.

Regardless, I would have it again and ask for more pepper flakes. And, of course, I would ask for more squid.

Service problems like that one are what troubled me most about my visits. Requests for minor things like extra peanuts for that Pad Thai or extra napkins were never fulfilled. And I waited nearly 20 minutes after asking for takeout boxes and having my table cleared to receive a bill during one visit.

Unlike the mango dish, the Tom Yum Talay soup had the requisite seafood – shrimp, squid and crab sticks – in a light, almost lemony broth with cilantro, mushrooms and tomatoes. A bowl was a great warm-up to my entrée and I would likely opt for a pot of it as my entrée next time.

Though the bowl was the size of a typical soup cup and was pricey for its size, it was still a better option than the complimentary clear soup.

It had noodles, sprouts, tofu and scallions, but the broth had an off flavor that didn't suit me.

The other appetizers were also lackluster. The egg rolls were decent with a tasty filling, and the curry puffs – fried “homemade” pastry filled with curried peas, potato, carrots and onions – were flavorful but scantily filled.

Both of the desserts I tried were winners and had me leaving on a happy note.

The Sticky Rice Custard was perfectly made to have the right chew, and the custard had a cinnamon, sweet spice-punch that was simply wonderful. It was even better in the version paired with fresh mango.

The fruit was a little tart on its own, but that really worked in this case as it offset the sweetness of that creamy custard.

Restaurant: Baan Thai

Address: 3235 N. Anthony Blvd.

Phone: 471-2929

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday

Cuisine: Thai

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer and wine

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Egg rolls ($6.95), curry puffs ($7.25), shrimp in blanket ($7.50), wings ($7.95), Yum Pla Mueg ($9.95), Tom Yum Talay ($4.95 bowl; $14.95 pot), spicy fried rice ($7.95 lunch; $10.95 dinner), Pad Thai ($8.25 lunch; $11.50 dinner), Gang Keaw Waan ($8.50 lunch; $12.50 dinner), mango curry ($12.50), sticky rice desserts ($5.95)

Rating breakdown: Food: *1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.