Dining Out: Thai Terrace tasty, contemporary

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Why: When I arrived at noon for lunch, Thai Terrace was abuzz. The lunch crowd seemed to settle right in as though this particular lunch expense was penciled in with their favorite coffee stop on their monthly budget. I concluded that my perspective, as a first-timer, would be appreciated by the few readers who were yet to discover Thai Terrace, and carefully scrutinized by many who are on a first-name basis with the wait staff. Although this is typically the case with an established restaurant, I was certain the ratio of newbies to fans would be dramatically less with this one.

Atmosphere: The atmosphere departs from the standard ancient Thai vibe, usually represented by relics and an array of bright colors, and arrives at modern, almost trendy, with the use of earthy tones and minimal focal points. The restaurant portrays a simple sophistication that is comfortable and relaxing, leaving the main focus on the food. Booths provide most of the seating and the air is filled with the delicious aroma of flavors waiting to be experienced.

What I tried: I decided on the Spicy Mango Chicken, a Thai Terrace exclusive, which is comprised of bite-size pieces of soft mango, tender chicken, red and green bell peppers, white and green onions and baby corn drenched in a homemade sweet chili sauce. The dish is served with a mound of rice and arrives steamy and hot.

The colors of the various ingredients create a beautiful presentation and the food is neatly arranged on basic white plates.

Though the dish is wok fried, a hint of grilled flavor accompanies the ingredients and the overall sweet chili taste of the sauce creates the perfect union between the mango and the chicken. The vegetables have the raw snap cooked out and remain slightly firm, which, along with the soft mango and tender chicken, keeps the textures of the dish interesting.

I decided not to have any additional spice added to the dish, so as it was, I only detected a small amount of heat.

I thought the portion was just right for a reasonably hearty lunch appetite.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The Star on Earth from the Starter menu sounded interesting. These appetizers are made from ground chicken and shrimp wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep fried. Sweet and sour sauce is served with them for dipping. Likewise, the Papaya Salad intrigued me. This is a mix of shredded green papaya, carrots, garlic, tomatoes and Thai chili peppers with a touch of lime juice.

Other observations: Take-out is available and Thai Terrace also does catering.

I found the wait time to accommodate an hour lunch break if work is close by, and the staff was friendly and attentive.

The food did not disappoint and I thought the price was in line with the quality, service and atmosphere.

Cost: Lunch specials are $6.75. House specials top out at $14.95. Soups and salads range from $7.95 to $12.50. Entrees are $8.50.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday.

Telephone: 360-256-8424

Where: 700 S.E. Chkalov Drive, Vancouver. www.thaiterracerestaurant.com.

Health score: Thai Terrace received a score of 8 on April 30. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.