By JD Herman
Thai food sometimes gets lumped in with Chinese food, but make no mistake – Thai food has tasting notes all its own. Much like Chinese food, which comes in many unique regional varieties, Thai food has four distinct regions. I consider southern Thai food to be the most “comfort food” like of the region. Warming curries, spicy noodles, and exquisite rice dishes with hints of lemongrass and other exotic spices are abundant. Just off the corner of Gessner and Kempwood is the wonderful Thai Jin restaurant. This is an exceptional eatery in the heart of the Spring Branch Management District. They too offer an eclectic menu of sushi, Unagi, traditional Chinese food, spicy basil, curry, and everything between but, hands down, they make the best Thai food in the area – if not the city.
Lynn Ngo started Thai Jin 7 years ago and credits the restaurant’s success to her ethos – “Serving great food and seeing it make people happy.” Her recipes are a combination of classic Thai and some family recipes from her uncles. She also leans heavily on chef Maria, who has over 30 years of experience cooking Thai dishes. Ms. Ngo rounds out her menu with traditional options like General Tso’s Chicken and some sushi. It’s a large menu but her attention to detail, and Maria’s expertise, are obvious as soon as your first dish arrives.
We arrived at the back end of the usual lunch crowd, around 2pm. The decor is subdued, creating a quiet and comfortable atmosphere and, from the start, the service was exceptional. Interested in what the regulars usually ordered, the waitress suggested Spicy Catfish or one of the many fried rice offerings.
We ordered the Thai Basil Fried Rice and debated between getting chicken or tofu – ultimately opting for the veggie tofu version. It arrived and the first bite was nothing short of magical. Thai Basil Fried Rice is not like a regular fried rice. It has hints of lemongrass and other exotic notes. They all combine with a forward taste of basil and slow heat from the peppers. It is unique and genuinely wonderful. Additionally, Thai Jin doesn’t skimp on the vegetable and tofu (or chicken or beef). You don’t just get rice with some carrot shavings and a couple scallions! You will be well fed and your taste buds will sing.
Our second dish was a traditional Thai Red Curry with chicken. This also comes with a healthy portion of green beans and carrots combined in a zesty red curry sauce. It is served with sticky rice and will satisfy anyone looking for genuine comfort food. Hearty like a soup and seasoned with exotic flavors – highlighted by coconut – this may be a new favorite of mine. I will crave this. All. Year. Round. It is definitely my new go-to for rainy nights when I need succor in a bowl.
Finally, their General Tso’s Chicken. Thai Jin’s version is crunchy and sweet, and not too spicy. If you’ve got picky eaters in tow, here is a life hack every parent should know: order General Tso’s for your kids and just tell them it’s “Firecracker Chicken” or “General Joe’s, or some other silly name if the dish sounds too exotic for their liking. They are sure to love it and in no time they will be venturing further afield to other great options on the menu. Thai Jin’s hours are noted on the website, but make sure you check out their happy hour! Nice discounts on drinks and great food specials between 5 and 7 pm Monday through Thursday and 1 – 5 pm on weekends. Daily lunch and dinner specials abound too, just ask!
Spring Branch Management District is lucky to have Tha Jin in our neighborhood. Truly, one of the best Thai options in the entire city.
2753 Gessner Rd
Houston, TX 77080