If at first you don't succeed at finding a great Thai restaurant, Thai, Thai again -- until you stumble upon Thai Bistro. This is a humble, unassuming space, located in a strip mall with no fanfare, but what savvy chef/owner Noi Phromthong cooks up deserves to be billboarded around town. Once diners have settled into this this sparsely decorated, yet somehow stylish, eatery, the service is attentive and graceful, and the food comes out looking like art. Phromthong combines curries and coconut milk, chiles and fresh herbs in ways that show his keen insight into the importance of balance and proportion. A rich, sweet pad Thai arrives with each noodle carefully laid across the plate, shrimp delicately placed to one side and garnishes galore; an extra-hot panang curry brings a huge helping of supple chicken wok-tossed with bell peppers and fresh basil held together with a coconut sauce enhanced with fennel and coriander. The curries are sweat-inducing, and the appetizers are the kind of addictive tidbits that really make a Thai meal: crunchy spring rolls, soft, steamed dumplings, and creamy-centered, deep-fried tofu, each with its own distinctive sauce and plethora of attractive -- and edible -- garnishes.
Readers' choice: Tommy's Thai