At Thai Tina's, Tina and her husband, Jay Jennings, are the heart and soul of the place. They not only pay attention to the quality of the food, but they also have a real passion for the people they serve.
Tina is almost maternal, learning the names, favorite dishes and even the life stories of her regular customers. Her enthusiasm is contagious. I think she would make a fabulous motivational speaker.
Tina began with a place in Flower Mound back in 1999. When it caught on, Tina continued moving up the food chain, if you will, to Watauga. After a successful stint in that location, she found a little hole-in-the-wall off of Henderson and White Settlement that didn’t look like much. But she and Jay decided to expand the franchise. They rolled up their sleeves and took the risk that her authentic Thai dishes would be a hit in downtown Fort Worth as well.
When an opening became available inside the Embassy Suites Hotel, the management wanted to fill it with a proven winner. So they went looking for a restaurant that might want to transplant. After several undercover visits, they fell in love with Thai Tina’s, which had already made a name for itself and had a regular following. It was the perfect fit. Tina said, “Without any financial support, every step of the way we had magic,” Tina said. “It has been like a dream. God had a plan for us.”
The starters have many familiar classics including Chicken Satay with peanut sauce, Fried Calamari sprinkled with lemon pepper and Chicken Lettuce Wraps in a white wine sauce. I went with the Sampler Platter ($10.95), which offered a taste of the mostly fried offerings. The four crispy spring rolls were topped with a fresh kick of basil. Six bite-sized crab rangoons were super-crunchy, and because of their size, they were different from the norm, not weighed down with cream cheese filling. Two shrimp spring rolls were filled with grilled shrimp, cilantro and mint, and rolled in rice paper.
Lobster and Scallop Curry ($24.95) caught my eye for a main course. Curry is a flavorful, working man’s stew in Thailand; you will find it in many shades and on every street corner. The delicate yellow sauce was filled with slow-simmered carrot, onion, potato, pineapple and tomato. It was served with steamed jasmine rice on the side. The colorful lobster tail was tender and plentiful, but the dime-sized scallops were a little sparse, and being a scallop fanatic, I was digging for more. The dish had a lovely kick, but nothing to induce a sweat. If you prefer that kind of heat, just order it to your taste. It was nothing flashy — I knew that when I ordered it — just hearty and satisfying.
For dessert, the Mango Sweet Rice ($4.95) hit the spot. The generous portion of perfectly ripe, sliced and fanned mango came with a mound of white rice pudding as well as an unusual purple rice pudding. A fresh coconut cream sauce added both flavor and sweetness to the already sweet and velvety mango. It was the flourish to a great meal.
The decor is hotel chic; there’s nothing really Asian about it, just relaxing and comfortable. You will find ornate blue/green upholstery on chairs and banquettes, punching up a mostly neutral scheme. Columns, creamy colors and mahogany veneers dominate the space. Two standout features are a focal wall and the bar, which are finished in a classy glowing, backlit onyx. The downtown lunch crowd flocks here and has made it a go-to favorite for years.