Saturday, July 17, 2010

Remember the Elephant!: Aiyara Thai Café

Tucked into a completely uninspiring strip-mall next to the Eugene area's least awesome mall, Aiyara Thai Café isn't the first place that perhaps comes to mind when you think "mm, thai." The competition in Eugene is fierce, after all, and good options abound -- so why would you go to Springfield?

You'd go because Aiyara does things that all of the places in Eugene seems to struggle with: it makes good Thai food, pretty cheaply, and fairly quickly, and it does it without any of the airy pomp and circumstance that most of the local places seem to charge for. There is, yes, the requisite poster-sized picture of the Thai royal family, but beyond that, you've got plain tables and chairs in a big might-have-once-been-a-shoe-store type room.

This isn't a bad thing. While dining at, say, Ta Ra Rin or Chao Pra Ya feels like an event, Aiyara feels like a place you could drop in for lunch without any forethought. I've eaten here alone many times without feeling that I'm soaking up valuable table space, which I count as a blessing.

4000B4E1-C7FF-4023-B472-C3BE2BE2A73D.jpgGreen Curry/From Aiyara website

So what about the food? It's pretty good. The typical dishes -- Pad Thai and Pad Se Ew -- are exactly that: typical. They're well done and come in full-plate portions and they taste about the same as they do everywhere. Where I think Aiyara is best is in its wide selection of curry dishes. There's a red and a green (both of which have received solid thumbs-ups from C), a Panang Curry that has a rich buttery initial taste and a slow-building spicy kick, and my favorite, the peanut curry, which can come over rice or noodles. It's a dish that's surprising in its sweet-and-sour flavor, and (at least when served with tofu) has little spice. (You can request extra spiciness on any dish; the default seems to be mild/medium area on most things, unless they've got red stars in the menu).

A bowl of peanut curry and a dish of rice costs about $9; the only way to spend more than $10 on a dish is if you want prawns -- and someday, I'm going to get over my distaste for those just so I can try the Pineapple Curry with Prawns, a dish that looks and sounds amazing. Appetizers -- including pork-filled spring rolls and my favorite, deep fried tofu -- run about $6. Everything comes up quickly, which is kind of a shame, because while you wait you can hear the chefs converse with their ever-present waitress as you wait; I once had the pleasure of hearing her explain the phrase "hook up" to them while I munched on fried tofu.

Aiyara is about as vegetarian friendly as any Thai place can be. There's fish sauce and oyster sauce in wide use, though they can make several dishes vegan (or gluten free) upon request.

Location: 1010 Harlow Road (in the strip mall that contains Ben Franklin), Springfield

Hours: Monday - Friday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (but good luck ordering any food after 8:20); Saturday noon to 9

Aiyara Thai Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Recently had occasion to try a Thai place up here: Bamboo a Taste of Asia. Since Asians apparently eat bamboo, I guess. Anyway, it was good. Not great, but quick, cheap, and friendly. I'll take you there next time you're up.