Beyond Thai took over Thai Pavilion II’s digs in August, and is a huge improvement over its predecessor. The restaurant features a menu of Thai, Chinese, Korean and Japanese food that can be made to satisfy any tastes.
The restaurant at 4654 Church St. has kept the same décor as Thai Pavilion II, but has new owners and a new chef. Tables are topped with white tablecloths, fish swim in a tank near the kitchen and a flat-screen TV was tuned to the Travel Channel that was airing shows devoted to food.
My companion and I visited Saturday night and were greeted by a woman who we later learned was one of the two owners. The place was quiet, occupied by just one other pair, though we saw a steady stream of diners come in to pick up takeout orders.
Beyond Thai is BYOB, so we brought a bottle and were given wine glasses along with our menus. We asked for recommendations, and the owner asked if we liked spicy food. When we responded in the affirmative, she suggested the pad kee mao ($7.95) and Thai basil seafood ($11.95). For appetizers she recommended the fried shrimp spring roll ($5.95).
We went with all of her recommendations and ordered a bowl of tom yum soup ($3.95) with her assurances that she would make everything extra spicy for us.
Even though they’re called spring rolls, the dish is actually large shrimp wrapped in egg roll skin and fried, giving them a delicious crisp but not greasy covering. They’re served with one of the best sweet and sour sauces I’ve ever had, a homemade blend that has the texture of honey.
Our soup came out at the same time, along with a second bowl and spoon. It was easily enough to share, with a spicy broth packed with chicken, mushrooms and cilantro. Our entrees came out very fast, so we wound up packing up some of the hearty starter to go.
The Thai basil entrée included plenty of shrimp, big scallops and strips of squid and imitation crab, served with mushrooms and pieces of lightly cooked red bell pepper in spicy gravy. It worked very well over rice, which thickened the texture.
While the Thai basil was quite good, the pad kee mao was better. The restaurant uses fresh rather than dried thick noodles, which are topped with strips of tender beef, sliced mushrooms, zucchini, carrots and bean sprouts. The sauce was very spicy, but was tempered by the noodles.
We had leftovers from both dishes and after getting them packed, we asked if the restaurant had any dessert. The owner said there was just ice cream, but asked what we would like to see on the menu, saying she had already requests for mango sticky rice.
The server-owner also encouraged us to come back next Friday when Beyond Thai will have an acoustic guitar player, a first test to see if it wants to regularly offer live music. I really appreciated the enthusiasm and interest she showed in her customers.
I never like to see a business close but when I visited Thai Pavilion in March I got the impression the restaurant wasn’t really trying. Beyond Thai is, and Skokie’s dining scene is better for it.