DINING: Playing ‘The Spice is Right’ at new Thai eatery downtown

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When it comes to trying a new Thai restaurant, it sometimes takes a while to get past the Goldilocks stage.

That’s what happened for me with Thai Paradise (137 W. Market St., 822-8382), the latest eatery to set up shop between Monument Circle and the Indiana Statehouse. Taking over the space formerly occupied by TaTa Cuban Cafe, Thai Paradise is a welcome complement to the downtown lunch lineup and is the rare sit-down place where you can squeak by for $10 and change.

Now, about the Goldilocks thing: I tried the restaurant three times over the last few weeks, finding it, on one visit, too hot, on another, too tepid, and on a third, just right. Granted, degree of spiciness is a customer choice, but there’s no universally agreed-upon heat index for dishes. One place’s mild is another’s yikes.

The too-hot came in the form of the Pad Thai ($7.99, like everything else on the lunch menu). A heaping plate of Thai noodles with bean sprouts, green onion, egg and crushed peanuts with chicken, pork or beef added, it was as impressive visually as it was quantitatively. I asked for hot—not Thai hot, mind you—and the result was on the eye-watering side.

Still, the blend was certainly more flavorful than the equivalent a few blocks away at Noodles & Co. There, a bowl of allegedly the same dish—more noticeably Americanized in its lack of kick—will cost you even more. And, a bonus at Thai Paradise: Lunches are accompanied by a small spring roll and dish of soup. (The menu on Thai Paradise’s Facebook page says a salad is also included but, nope, none was to be found.)

On another visit, I ordered the Massaman Curry, which proved bland to the point of being forgettable. Yes, it’s labeled “sweet and mild,” but the soupy coconut curry with potatoes and onions made this a must-skip for future visits. At last, a third lunch—with a medium-hot request—found a delicious dish of Thai Basil. A stir-fry with green beans, bell peppers and onions, the Thai Basil might not earn creativity points, but it was just right.

Seating is a bit tight, so I wouldn’t want to have a sensitive business meeting or a romantic dinner here. But Thai Paradise certainly earns a place in a lunch rotation for downtown workers and dwellers. Evening visitors—it’s open until 9 p.m.—should certainly consider it for a pre-Indiana Repertory Theatre or Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra stop. Most dinner entrees rest in the $12-$15 range.•

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