My favorite is the cinnamon beef with rice noodles, but the creamy chicken laced with coconut milk is a close second.
“Some people look at the soup as their entreé, maybe get an appetizer with it,” said chef/manager Phillip Van Sickel. “Our best-sellers are the chicken and coconut, and the lemon soup.”
Van Sickel is the son of V-Li (Vilairat Van Sickel), who opened the restaurant in 1997. The charming painted-brick building with striped awnings and stained glass accents sits in the middle of Canal Fulton’s historic district, about three steps from the canal for which the town is named. Inside, decorations are simple, and the atmosphere is casual.
The menu is ambitious, but not overly so, and includes many selections, such as grilled honey pork, for that member of your dining party who doesn’t want spicy or exotic dishes.
“Pad Thai is popular because it’s a traditional dish,” Van Sickel said. “Another house specialty is the triple-flavor fish. The sauce is a bell pepper coulis with flavors of chili sauce — sweet and spicy.”
What is the chef ’s favorite entree?
“That’s the toughest question,” Van Sickel said. “I’m a fan of the red curry — it’s a little spicier than the others.”
Van Sickel said they are getting more and more “hotheads” at the restaurant, requesting the dishes to be as spicy as possible. Those who prefer a milder experience should try the masaman curry, with butternut squash cubes, broccoli, onion and your choice of meat in a sauce tamed by coconut milk. The yellow curry with potatoes, bell peppers and cauliflower has slightly more heat.
The Tiger beer from Singapore, a creamy yet bold lager, pairs well with the spicy dishes.
If you opt for soup as your entree, you deserve dessert. All are made in-house, except for the coconut ice cream, which is from Taggarts in Canton. The Siam Sundae can be shared, but you might not want to. In the center of the plate is a generous scoop of coconut ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce. Surrounding the ice cream are tiny square packets. Closer inspection reveals a slice of banana that is encased in a spring roll wrapper, then fried to crisp, flaky perfection.
At V-Li Thai, the food is affordable enough that it’s a neighborhood favorite, but so well executed it’s also a destination.
“You get decent value for your money — we’re not just a special-occasion place,” Van Sickel said. “We get a combination of locals and out-of-towners. We have a strong Wooster following for some reason.”
Fair warning, reservations are not taken. If you find there’s a wait, take a walk around downtown or stroll down to the canal and watch for canoes.
WANT MORE THAI?
4430 Belden Village St.NW, Jackson Township. (330) 492-7888. www.sukhothaicanton.com.
Elegance is the watchword at Pad Thai, at the corner of Route 18 and Cleveland-Massillon Road in Fairlawn. Gorgeous dark woods, white linens and professional service combine for such a refined dining experience that I would leave satisfied, even if the food were mediocre. It’s not. The wizards in the kitchen create the best curries in the region. The 20-item appetizer menu is so enticing, you may never make it to the entrees.
(330) 668-9981. For info on this or their sister restaurant in Hudson, visit www.pad-thairestaurant.com.
The sunny dining room at Asian Garden in Perry Township is awash in shades of yellow, from buttery walls to the golden linens covering pale wooden tables. The menu at the 15-table eatery is split vertically between Thai and Chinese dishes. The coconut spaghetti is as quirky as its name. A slightly spicy red pepper sauce liberally laced with coconut milk is tossed with spaghetti noodles, julienned carrots and sauteed onions, with a generous portion of the meat of your choice. For a dish with more zing, try a curry or the spicy peanut chicken with bell peppers, carrots and roasted peanuts.