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Local & Edi-Bull: Thai

Everyone has to eat sometime. However, as most students know, visiting the Marshall Student Centers food court for the fourth time in a week can get tiresome. The Oracle rates a few USF area restaurants on criteria including taste, price, service and atmosphere (1 being the worst and 5 being the best). To preserve the authentic customer experience, Abuelenen and Castillo never reveal that they are critics. This weeks theme: Thai.

Bangkok Jazz
Service: 4
Atmosphere: 4
Price: 4
Taste: 3.5

Hidden away among boutiques at the pink Victorian Village, Bangkok Jazz boldly fuses traditional Thai culture with a modern jazz feel. The crimson interior lined with golden Thai dcor features a bar and a lighted stage for jazz bands to play in the afternoons.

The restaurant includes numerous entrees on its lunch special, each comes with complimentary chicken rice soup. Even though the bowl was mostly filled with a clear broth, and only a slight scattering of rice and chicken, the soup was still a pleasant start to the meal.

The Thai chili haddock ($9.95) is an entirely different take on fried fish. The dish had a pleasant combination of textures: The haddock was lightly fried, giving it a crispy outside, while the opaque white meat remained firm but flaky. The fish was covered in a Thai chili sauce adding a sweet, tangy flavor to its naturally mild taste and was accompanied by a dome of jasmine rice and a bed of steamed vegetables, making it a well-rounded meal. Only one ingredient seemed out of place: the mint leaves garnishing the fish, which created an unsavory clash of flavors.

The incorporation of several different tastes and textures rice noodles sauted with egg, ground peanuts, bean sprouts and scallions makes Pad Thai ($6.95) an intriguing dish that surprises your palate with every bite. The noodles create a firm and well-seasoned base for crunchy bean sprouts, which are both different and tasty, while the scallion pieces give the dish a slight kick of flavor. The dish also includes bite-sized pieces of chicken that, though slightly dry, helped balance the dish.

Verdict: Might return for the music

Sawatdee Thai
Service: 5
Atmosphere: 5
Price: 5
Taste: 5

Sawatdees welcoming and friendly environment is evident soon after entering; the amicable staff members greet guests with a smile and enthusiastically answer any questions. The cozy booths lining the walls and quaint dcor elephant-themed tablecloths and a corner featuring traditional seating, with cushions as seats add to the charm of the restaurant.

The sweet and sour chicken ($6.95) is a delectable dish filled with familiar ingredients prepared in a novel way: a great choice for Thai food newcomers. The small tender pieces of chicken along with a mix of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and scallions are sauteed in a sweet and sour sauce completely infusing them with the zesty flavor, while juicy pineapple chunks scattered throughout the dish add concentrated bursts of citrusy sweetness.

Sawatdees lunch special commences with a fried wonton: chicken enveloped in dough and fried, served with sweet plum sauce. A rice soup sprinkled with scallions, cilantro and chicken follows, providing a light start to the meal. A scrumptious bite-sized Thai donut, lightly drizzled in a sweet sauce, caps the filling and satisfying lunch.

The green curry ($6.95) has a consistency resembling a thick soup rather than a sauce. Its mild taste makes it a great base for the chicken and the unique and eclectic cast of ingredients bamboo shoots, peas, carrots, eggplant and bell peppers that completely transform the taste.

Verdict: Will return for lunch

Thai Ruby
Service: 4
Atmosphere: 4
Price: 4
Taste: 2.5

Behind Thai Rubys unassuming exterior lies an ornately adorned room filled with beautifully carved wooden panels, statues of veneered gods and comfortable booths complete with decorative pillows that are the perfect place to await the meal and admire the surroundings.

Amazing Beef ($10.95) is best left to extreme peanut butter lovers. The dish supposedly medallions of beef flavored by peanut sauce on a bed of vegetables more closely resembles a peanut sauce swamp. The excessive sauce gives the beef a sickeningly sweet and overwhelming flavor making the meal reminiscent of a challenge on Fear Factor: Eating more than two pieces seems like an incredible feat. Not even the assortment of vegetables baby corn, sliced carrots, red peppers and mushrooms add variety to the dish since these too are drowned in the sauce, with its overpowering taste muting all flavors and permeating every bite.

The garlic and black pepper chicken ($9.95) was a frustratingly boring, average-tasting dish. Its main ingredient, black pepper, was barely there, and more of the spice was necessary to give the dish a bolder, more flavorful taste. There were, however, plenty of freshly steamed vegetables that added much-needed texture and variety to the dish.

The iced Thai coffee ($2) is a delightful bi-layered concoction. The sweetness of the cream layer is assuaged by the nearly bitter taste of the strongly brewed coffee base beneath, creating a delicious blend of flavors. The only caveat is that it is more of a before and after dinner drink, as its taste does not meld well with the entrees.

Thai Rubys platter of numerous Thai donuts ($2.95) is a great dessert to share. The warm, soft donuts come with a sweet dipping sauce sprinkled with peanuts on the side, and, though slightly greasy, were nonetheless enjoyable.

Verdict: Unlikely to return