PICTURED: Clockwise from top: Pad Thai with shrimp, spicy eggplant with tofu and ribeye green curry. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

 

Lucky Thai Restaurant
1141 S. Seaward Ave., Ventura
805-444-4563
www.luckythaiventura.com
$3-$19


Satay, pad Thai, curry . . . these are a few of my favorite things. Lucky for me, Lucky Thai in Ventura serves all this and more — and operates its own delivery service within the city of Ventura as well. Yes, there’s a modest fee (which increases the farther you get from the restaurant’s Pierpont location), but it’s a small price to pay for expertly prepared Thai food arriving on your doorstep.

The menu — available online; ordering is a snap — is a fairly comprehensive list of Thai specialities. The usual: numerous coconut milk-laden curries, pad Thai and drunken noodles; tom yum and tom kha soups; crab rangoon and pineapple fried rice. Less familiar to me: curries made with duck, ribeye and green mussels; stir fries that include avocado; chicken wings; curry puffs; an intriguing spinach and tofu soup and other interesting options.

Feeling inspired, I determined to mix up my typical Thai selections and try something new. Which is how I found myself ordering ribeye green curry (a chef’s special), a papaya salad, and basil wings in addition to family favorites chicken satay, spicy eggplant and pad Thai. The desserts (mango with sticky rice, coconut and Thai tea ice creams and fried bananas) were tempting, but I decided to go with the lighter-sounding Lucky Thai Blender in strawberry.

Unpacking the colorful feast once it was delivered to my home definitely whet the appetite — and revealed a few surprises.

First: The ribeye green curry is thin; almost like a soup. In fact, I thought a mistake had been made in my order. As I scooped it into bowls, however, I realized this was indeed a curry, with perfectly rectangular strips of ribeye, sliced mushrooms and fresh basil swimming in a delicately scented, light green coconut sauce. After one bite, I didn’t care that I had to eat it with a spoon: It was absolutely delicious, with a touch of herb and citrus and a decent amount of heat from the chilis. 

I initially mistook the papaya salad for a noodle dish, as the carrots and green papaya were shredded into long, thin strips. Accompanied by green beans, cherry tomatoes and hunks of tofu and dressed in a tangy vinegar dressing, it was an interesting mix of flavors: very fresh and crisp, with sweetness from the dressing, earthiness from the carrots and a cucumber-like character from the green papaya. 

The salad was a welcome and healthy contrast to the other rich dishes, like the basil chicken wings. Not spicy, but very flavorful . . . I couldn’t quite pick out every element in the tasty sauce, but there was basil and garlic for sure. Simply put: very good, and especially popular with the kids (14 and 11). Same with the satay, made with chicken breast (not thigh) and well seasoned; the flavor went all the way through. A Thai staple, satay is a dish easy to prepare but not so easy to get just right, and Lucky Thai really excelled.

The pad Thai was good — maybe a little sweet, but overall, no complaints and the shrimp was lovely. On the other hand, the spicy eggplant was not a wow. The eggplant and tofu were the perfect texture, and the dish wasn’t over-sauced (a good thing), but somehow it lacked punch. I normally love this dish, and its lackluster preparation was a disappointment.

The Lucky Thai Blender was a simple concoction: blended strawberries, not much else. Which sounds damning, but was actually pretty good — a nice, light drink made with fresh strawberries. A cool, sweet, uncomplicated ending to a rich and tastebud-tingling meal.

I came away from my Lucky Thai dinner feeling like a winner: pretty great food, an expanded list of favorites and a renewed interest in rolling the dice to try something different. I’d happily try my luck again at Lucky Thai.