The Promise of Padi
With a few tweaks, Hockessin’s newest Pan-Asian place could reach its flavorful potential.
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The times I ventured into specialty sushi roll territory I was overcome with ingredients and gobsmacked with sauces. One special one night was the Dirty Pop roll, an eye-rolling tribute to a bygone ’N Sync tune. Appropriately, Dirty Pop matched the boy band era in useless showiness with a mouth-cramming combo of snow crab, cucumber, asparagus, avocado, torched salmon, eel sauce and tobbiko. On the subsequent Cobra roll, I truly enjoyed the interplay between lobster salad and creamy avocado. I couldn’t help wondering: Why deep-fry it? And why top each and every slice needlessly with more tempura flakes that invariably slid from their neat piles and onto my pants? And why streak everything with two thick swashes of sauces? There was a good dish somewhere in here; it was just wearing more makeup than Christina Aguilera.
Just when I began wishing Padi would go back to coloring inside the lines, out came reminders of its admirable creative spirit. Certainly not every attempt at fusion went awry. A Thai chicken “doughnut” was a fun send-up, especially when dunked (as with any doughnut) into one of two dynamite dipping sauces: a creamy chile aioli, a sort of a sweet-and-sour Asian pico de gallo. And not every foray into Pan-Asian stapledom ended like the Yakatori. Hearty Massaman curry, the southern Thai dish, soothed my temperament on a rainy night. Red curry-lacquered chicken chunks joined a tasty blend of coconut milk, potatoes, roasted peanuts and veggies, with shrimp paste notes that played seamlessly in the background.
So despite a few headscratchers, there was much to love about Padi. Not the least of which was the ultra-friendly and most hospitable staff, led by the radiant owner Teoh and manager Patrick Wang. They both patrolled dinner services excitedly, regaling regulars and making new friends.
With a few thoughtful edits to the menu, Padi’s social circle will only grow.