Restaurant Review

Thai West

Thai West's French-trained chef Veera Premon came to America from Bangkok in 1972. His new restaurant shows moments of brilliance, also inconsistency.

Bat .300 in baseball, you’re a hero. Hit that average in a restaurant kitchen, something’s wrong.

In our first visit to Thai West in Westwood, on a Saturday night, chef/owner Veera Premon and his team knocked just about everything out of the park.

On our next two visits, a slow Thursday and a Sunday, he and his team whiffed on dishes we hadn’t tried the first time and on a couple we loved the first time. This was not just disappointing, but perplexing. Premon, 65, is a successful restaurateur, owner of the five Thai Chef restaurants in North Jersey. Premon grew up in Bangkok, went to work at 14 in his aunt’s Thai restaurant there and left for America with his brother in 1972. They opened several Thai eateries in Manhattan.

He learned to cook French under chef Daniel Dunas at Central Park’s Tavern on the Green. “The precision of technique, the attention to each ingredient, the beauty of the plating, it’s all so elegant,” he told me, his son interpreting.

At Thai West, which opened last July, Premon melds French with Thai. On our first visit, we had the pan-fried squid garlic, tender sautéed calamari rings swimming in sauce, with a wonderful roasted wedge of Japanese pumpkin. On our third visit, the dish was dull, with barely any sauce.

On our first visit, we loved the $9 scallop pancake with its sticky-tangy chili sauce. We eagerly ordered it on our second visit, but the scallops were not quite fresh. Third visit, the scallops were fresh but the pancake (now $11) was overcooked and dry.

At each meal, we were asked our preferred level of spiciness on a scale of one to five. We chose five each time. On Saturday, the heat was forthright; on Thursday, wimpy; on Sunday, again forthright.

On our first visit, spicy roasted-duck salad was fresh, flavorful and perfectly balanced. On our second visit, we tried spicy tender beef. Despite long marination and being brushed on the grill with tamarind chili paste, it had no particular personality, and the sauce was banal.

Tom kha chicken-coconut soup on two visits was as sweet as a dessert. Deep-fried snapper, fresh and crisp, was hobbled by a cloying tamarind-ginger sauce. Pad Thai, oddly lacking the signature peanuts, was likewise a glucose bomb. There’s a pattern here.

Premon’s daughter, Tisha (who runs Tisha’s, an American restaurant a few blocks away) makes the Western-style desserts. Deconstructed strawberry shortcake was bland, with soggy strawberries. Sweet sticky rice with sliced mangoes, not one of hers, had scant mango flavor. Thai West needs to raise its batting average.

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Restaurant Details

  • Cuisine Type:
    French - Thai
  • Price Range:
    Expensive
  • Price Details:
    Appetizers, soups, salads, $6-$12; entrées, $15-$38; sides, $2-$6; desserts, $6-$11
  • Ambience:
    Bright, white, modern, mall-like.
  • Service:
    Pleasant, variably proficient.
  • Wine list:
    BYO

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