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November 22, 2014

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Sugar and (not enough) spice at Jasmine Thai

Good selection and pricing, but flavors are a challenge

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Beverly Poppe

Naked shrimp salad at Jasmine Thai

Jasmine Thai Gourmet has two west-side locations, and while the menus are virtually the same, the restaurants are decidedly different. The northwest site, near the busy intersection of Lake Mead and Buffalo, is a tiny wedge of a restaurant with seven tables, comfy enough for eating-in but better suited for takeout and delivery. The southern location, on Buffalo near Flamingo, is larger and nice for a family night out, but with a few elevated prices. Like so many neighborhood Asian eateries, Jasmine tosses some well-known, non-Thai dishes into the mix to satisfy the less adventurous, like sesame chicken, Kung Pao and egg foo young. But if you want generic Chinese, maybe you shouldn’t eat at a restaurant with “Thai” in its name.

The problem here is simple but impossible to overlook—it’s too sweet. The menu is pretty vast for a relatively small restaurant, but almost everything is overly sugared. Curry might be the best move, and the options are numerous. The most elaborate is andaman, loaded with seafood, vegetables and basil leaves. A tender filet of farm-raised salmon with steamed broccoli and peppers is made special with a fiery, creamy red curry. This dish brings the heat we expect, but the fire is soon extinguished by dishes like the painfully sweet green-apple salad. A mix of shredded Granny Smiths, red onions, peanuts, roasted coconut and chili dressing sounds like a delicious blend of textures, but the dressing, which seems to have a Kool-Aid base, sogs away the crunch. Perhaps the simple tossed chicken salad, with iceberg lettuce, cilantro, crispy-rice noodles and hot-mustard dressing, makes more sense, or choose the namsod salad, with ground chicken, ginger, minimal greens and a citrus dressing.

Click to enlarge photo

Barbecued chicken from Jasmine Thai

Restaurant Guide

Jasmine Thai Gourmet
Two stars
7668 W. Lake Mead Blvd., Suite 107, 242-2233.
4135 S. Buffalo Road, Suite 101, 253-1918.
Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., $59 ($24 children under 12).
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Suggested dishes: Tom Kha Gai soup, $8.95; salmon with red curry, $10.95; Yum Moo Yang, $10.95.
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Would-be spicy noodle dishes suffer from over-sweetening as well, but soups are seasoned with a more subtle hand. Tom kha gai—coconut cream broth with lime, straw mushrooms, tomatoes and chicken or tofu—has intense coconut and lemongrass flavors without being overpowered either way. For appetizers, we sampled vegetable spring roll (just fine) and that odd Thai favorite, stuffed chicken wings. This version has a satisfying crispy coating, but it’s overstuffed with flavorless ground chicken and glass noodles. And what do you dip it in? That sweet, sweet chili sauce, of course.

Seasoning is not the strength of Jasmine Thai Gourmet. Barbecued chicken (half the bird is just $7.95) is wonderfully tender, but nothing can fill the flavor void. The spicy pork salad, yum moo yang, boasts ample strips of grilled pork with red and green onion, slightly pickled carrot, a bit of lettuce, cilantro and a lime dressing with a good kick to it. It’s a solid dish, if lacking in textural variation, but you need to soak the meat in the zesty juice if you plan on tasting anything. Next time, maybe we’ll order everything as spicy as possible; achieving balance might be worth a face-blazing. Or maybe take a different approach and ask for the most candy-like entrée on the menu. Strawberry shrimp, anyone? Ultimately, the prices and variety make the food worthwhile. At lunch, that tasty red curry with shrimp over steamed or fried rice, plus a crispy crab Rangoon and wonton for side munching, runs just $8.95, or $6.95 with chicken or beef. That deal is good enough to keep you out of the scary Chinese buffet line.

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