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Pad Thai, one of Asia Kitchen's popular lunch specials, comes with rice, spring rolls, and sesame chicken. (Photos by Laura McKenzie)

Knocked out by Asia Kitchen's Thai cuisine

Paper parasols painted with peacocks. Pressed flowers on silver teapots. Shiny black shoes and matching socks.

Such are the details at Asia Kitchen, a superb Thai restaurant scrunched between a Big Lots and an abandoned mega-store whose accompanying parking lot is larger than many city parks.

"This would be an excellent time to be a cow," I thought upon seeing the gigantic portions toted on trays by Asia Kitchen's agile, and apparently strong-as-steel waitresses. "I need four stomachs."

The ample selection of lunch specials offers several staples, including a delicate Pad Thai, tender Kung Pao beef, and crunchy stir-fried vegetables, accompanied by aromatic white rice and spring rolls. The sesame chicken comes fried, but it's quite light.

The dinner menu is available anytime, and there's no reason to wait until 5 o'clock to plunge into a huge platter of vegetable curry: firm tofu, crisp snow

Asia Kitchen
1739 SW Loop 410
Hours: 11am-3pm Mon-Sat,
5-9pm Mon-Thu,
5-10pm Fri-Sat
Major credit cards
Handicapped accessible
peas, carrots, cabbage, and new potatoes bob in a shallow pond of mellow yellow curry. Since the heat index can lie in the tongue of the beholder, I ordered the mild version, which still contained a pleasant kick, but next time I'll brave the medium and ask for extra napkins to wipe my nose.

For the blazing palate, cheesecakes, ice cream, or sweet rice will help neutralize the burn (remember, water only spreads the heat around; dairy products extinguish it). Although the wine list and sake were tempting - it was Friday after all - we arrived at noon, so the trio of Current employees skipped the intoxicants. We don't start tippling until at least 4.

Vegetarians, who often get the short shrift in San Antonio, are catered to at Asia Kitchen. In addition to a special meat-free menu, the chef will omit the flesh from other items and cook it to your specifications.

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Seafood puffs, an Asia Kitchen appetizer.
Since the portions were so substantial (but not heavy; we left full, but not bloated), we had no room to try the tantalizing seafood dishes, glass noodle salad, ginger chicken, or Tom Kai soup, a concoction of hot & sour coconut milk, lime leaves, lemongrass, mushrooms, and galanga root - a member of the ginger family that is considered an aphrodisiac and can also be used in perfumes.

There will be another time for those dishes; Asia Kitchen was such a pleasant experience - the mesmerizing aquariums instilled a sense of calm - we'll be back not only for the food but the service: expedient, attentive, but not clingy (the waitress called us "dear" as if we were genuinely dear to her - even during the frantic lunch rush).

Obviously, many people are clued in to this Southwest Side diamond in the rough. The owners had to close the Asian market to make space for additional patrons: civilians who gladly drive the gauntlet of Loop 410 for some of the top Thai food in town, and regulars from nearby Lackland Air Force Base, soldiers clad in camouflage and marching boots, others dressed in blue, sitting among teapots and parasols and wearing shiny black shoes.



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