Need a boutique-y Thai restaurant brimming with appealing and mod style? Need a Thai restaurant in a tavern-teeming hip 'hood? Need a Thai restaurant with intriguing cocktails?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you need to visit Nida's Thai on High.
Finally a nice Columbus Thai eatery with cheeky mixed drinks and a charming setting, I thought as I settled down into a chocolate-brown banquette perked up by glossy throw pillows.
That soothing brown candy-bar tint basically pervades Nida's - it graces the lively sushi bar, the sushi-roller-like placemats, the ceiling, etc. Also prominent are playful accents of orange, exposed brick walls and captivating framed photographs of Thai lifestyle scenes.
Occupying a snug space in the northern Short North, Nida's has pretty much got it all over its local competition, ambience-wise. Cuisine-wise, I'd say Nida's makes great Thai food for people relatively new to it. Because compared with higher taste achievers (like Pad Thai, Thai Lagoon, P.S. Thai Tai), Nida's flavors are more toned down, less nuanced and complex.
Is this a major stumbling block? Absolutely not, because this fun place has plenty to offer.
Such as distinct cocktails (all a very respectable $7). Though it's sweeter than I'd prefer, I appreciated the limeade-like Isaan Spritzer for its surprising hint of roasted peanuts, which arrived via a clear syrup.
Also worth a slurp was the salty, zingy tomato-soup-with-lemongrass aspect of the Tom Yum Bloody Mary.
Veering more towards solids, the coconut-milk-fortified Tom Kha soup ($4 cup/$5 bowl - limey, but lacking in lemongrass and fish sauce) was fine, and more interesting than the clear, simple, anisey-broth of the Shrimp Ball Soup ($5).
Skip the papaya salad (Som Tomm, $6) with its dominating puddle of overly sweet dressing in favor of the much better beef salad (Yum Nua, $6/$11) with its scattered crunchy ground rice bits, strips of seared beef, queen-sized bed of sliced romaine, and more balanced Thai flourishes of fish sauce, lime, scallion and cilantro.
The properly spongy Tod Mun ($6 - clumps made with fried ground chicken) were pleasing if fairly standard, as was the served-warm Larb (ground chicken salad - $5/$9), even if it was a little absent in the chili and lime departments.
I was disappointed with the Chu Chee Duck ($15) because of its lukewarm, gummy meat, its unrendered, intact fat cap and its skimpiness of red curry sauce.
But my above-average Pad Thai (an excellent $7 at lunch, made with chewy pork) had perfectly cooked wide noodles and a nice presence of egg, though it could have used more peanuts and citrus to help offset its garlicky sweetness.
Sriracha might make water taste interesting, and its replacement of soy sauce in the simply delicious and veggie-packed Sriracha Fried Rice ($9/$7 at lunch, with broccoli, peas and corn) was nearly revelatory. And yet another reason you need to visit Nida's.