The Promise of Padi
With a few tweaks, Hockessin’s newest Pan-Asian place could reach its flavorful potential.
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A theme of simple and bright-tasting dishes soon emerged from the small starter menu. Tom Yum soup, its broth punctuated by lemongrass, ginger and chiles, hit the hot-sweet-sour flavor targets Thai food aspires to, while bobbing mushrooms remained miraculously crisp. Salmon-avocado kyuri maki was another prolific study in texture as creamy avocado sticks coalesced with soft salmon under a sheath of crispy rolled cucumber. A light but pungent drizzle of ponzu sauce furnished the rolls with salt while toasted sesame seeds added a surprising wallop of nutty flavor.
Muliadi’s sushi combo—10 pieces (for $23.95) of assorted, unadorned nigiri—proved an irresistible litmus test. Slices of yellowtail, white tuna, eel and salmon swathed firmly over rice and then disappeared quickly.
But Padi’s kitchen also proved capable of some quizzical and forgettable lows, its overlarge menu occasionally lacking in grace. A humongous serving of crab- and Panang curry-stuffed shrimp seemed almost stodgy in comparison to those alluringly unfussy starters. Turgid and brown, the shrimp weren’t much for presentation, and they resembled the sort of dish readily available at every tourist-trap fish house in Sea Isle. An overly sweet and pallid tangle of pad Thai moped in its compartment of a Thai-themed bento box one afternoon. Its costar, an otherwise tasty ground pork-and-mushroom fried dumpling, was greasy. (Though I was told the chef was given the day off after working a charity event the previous evening.)
That excuse couldn’t be made for a chewy sampling of Yakatori, which bordered on miserable. A $20 catchall (sticks can be ordered a la cart for $2 each) included chewy chicken gizzards, boiled quail eggs wrapped in undercooked bacon, lifeless and cold calamari, mini sausage bits a la Johnsonville, plus beef balls and fish balls of unknown origins. Bitter, burnt grill taste choked nearly every skewer. Everything was splattered with the same tare sauce.
Page 3: The Promise of Padi, continues...