When Austin of The Hungry Dogg blog told me he wanted to try Mint Leaf Thai because he had read about the pumpkin curry on LoCale magazine, I was highly skeptical. Thai in Newport Beach? Seriously? But I went along and I was so impressed we ended up going three times in just one week!
The place isn’t big, but the vibrant colors make it such a joy to dine in. On each visit, we made it a point to order different things on each occasion and was really happy we did.
Larb ($8.95) ground chicken mixed with roasted Thai chili, rice powder, onions and basil tossed in lime dressing is an all time favorite. Normally, I always ask for spicy but the lightweights I was with wanted it medium, so I always ask for some prik nam pla (fresh chilis with fish sauce) to drizzle over my food.
One of my favorite dishes is Spicy Thai Beef Salad ($8.95), something my son also loves. The charbroiled top sirloin is seasoned perfectly with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, cucumber, lemongrass, basil, tossed in chili paste and lime juice dressing. It was the right amount of tart and so appetizing.
I’m normally not a huge fan of Papaya Salad ($7.95) because I find restaurants marinate it for way too long. The shredded green papaya is then left soft and without any crunch and not palatable. The one here is fresh and mixed with chili, garlic, green beans, tomatoes, ground peanuts, carrots, shrimp, then tossed in lime juice dressing. I couldn’t get enough of it! SO GOOD!
Austin loves Tom Kha Kai ($5/cup $9.25/large) and on all three occasions we ordered this. Hot and sour coconut soup with chicken, lemongrass, mushrooms, galangal and lime juice is absolutely stunning. I like how they served the large in a pot over a flame to keep the soup hot throughout.
Jungle Curry ($9.95) with chicken is a green curry, but not as thick with coconut milk as the regular green curry. Mixed vegetables and basil leaves add great flavor to the curry although I’ve never had napa cabbage or celery in jungle curry before.
The Pumpkin Curry ($10.95) we came here for was as good as LoCale says it was. We chose chicken for the protein and the red curry with coconut milk was rich, flavorful and brimming with sweetness from the pumpkin. I don’t like my food overly sweet so I request them to not add sugar when I order.
Spicy Eggplant ($9.95) with tofu sauteed with onions, chili paste and fresh basil was enjoyed by everyone. Definitely order some hot rice to go with this one because you wouldn’t want to waste any of the sauce left on the plate.
One of the highlights of our meals was Crispy Trout with Apple Salad ($14.95). The trout is de-boned, fried golden brown and topped with a green apple slaw with lime juice, chili, red onions, cashews and cilantro. I absolutely loved it and am salivating even as I’m writing this up!
On each occasion, we tried a different noodle. The ubiquitous Pad Thai ($9.95) is not something I order. I don’t particularly like it and I must say, the one here was just okay. The stir fried rice noodles were too mushy but they didn’t skimp on the chicken, egg, bean sprouts, green onions and ground peanuts which accompanied.
The Prik King ($9.95) was just okay. There was too much sauce and the flavors did not seep into the green beans at all. I wouldn’t order this again here.
Drunken Noodles or pad kee mau ($9.95) are stir fried flat noodles with onions, bell peppers and basil in chili sauce which is normally served as street food in Thailand. These were pretty good although not as spicy as the traditional version.
My favorite of the noodles was Thai Silk or pad woon sen ($9.95) soft clear glass noodles stir fried with pork with egg, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots and mushroom. It wasn’t greasy and was seriously tasty!
If you’re into sweets then try the Sticky Rice with Mango ($6.95) which comes to the table so beautiful you might not want to eat it because it looks too pretty! The mango is so sweet and perfectly ripened and they do not skimp on the portion. There is enough for three to share!!
For some of the best Thai food in the area, Mint Leaf is THE place to go! Just don’t do it crazily like we did! I’m still paying off my credit card bill!
Mint Leaf Thai
712 E Balboa Blvd
Newport Beach, CA 92661