The May opening of Mayuree Thai Tavern, in the Canton spot that formerly housed Geckos, came as welcome news.
In many American cities, you can't walk three blocks without running smack into a Thai restaurant. That's not the case in Baltimore. Thai food is woefully underrepresented in our local restaurant scene and Mayuree's opening helps.
The restaurant's approach to Thai is friendly to the most delicate American palates, with only mild spice. Some people will like that; others won't. Though our meal was less edgy than some Thai food we've tried, it was, for the most part, packed with flavor.
Combined with impressively attentive, kind service, that made for a very likable, if not terribly adventurous, meal.
Scene & Decor With deep green walls, dark wood accents and a large chalkboard promoting specials and the beer selection, Mayuree's interior is cozy and welcoming.
When we arrived, just after 7 on a Thursday evening, both the first floor bar and the dining room, on a lofted second floor, were sparsely populated. Within the hour, both were completely full.
Appetizers A quick perusal of Mayuree's menu immediately revealed that the restaurant wasn't hung up on serving only completely authentic Thai food. At the top of the list, in a category called "bites," the Maryland crispy crab dumplings ($7) were promoted as a "must try."
And so we did. The rectangular-shaped dumplings were underwhelming — they were our least favorite dish of the evening. We liked the plum dipping sauce that accompanied them, but we didn't get much sweet crab flavor from the dumpling filling.
A bright, crunchy papaya salad ($6) was a hit. Tossed with string beans and peanuts, and served over greens with tomatoes, the vegetables were fresh and lively, and we loved the citrusy chili and lime dressing.
Entrees Panang curry ($10), served with shrimp ($3), is one of our favorite Thai dishes. Mayuree's version did not disappoint. The shrimp was cooked nicely, tossed with thin slices of pepper and carrot, and bits of basil.
Though the sauce was thicker, with less creamy coconut — and less heat — than some versions we've tried, we liked its nuttiness and how it showcased the red pepper flavors of the curry paste.
Five-spice roasted duck ($15), touted as a family recipe, was delightful. The duck was cooked beautifully, slightly crisp on the outside. The five-spice blend, which includes both savory and sweet elements, is most associated with Chinese food, but here, surrounded by a rich, translucent broth, it illustrated the way the two countries' cuisines can be similar.
Neither of the dishes we tried was a tongue-scorcher, which initially surprised us. Another shock was that, possibly in a nod to the healthy habits of Cantonites, they both came with brown rice and steamed broccoli; the duck also included cauliflower and carrots.
Sides of wholesome veggies aren't the first thing that come to mind when we think of authentic Thai food, but both the vegetables and rice were nicely prepared. Though they seemed out of place, we weren't sorry they were on our plates.
Drinks Singha is our Thai beer of choice ($6); we like the way the pale lager cuts through the heat of even the spiciest food. Though our meals at Mayuree weren't on the super-hot end of the spectrum, it was still a good fit for the flavors on our plates — especially the duck.
Dessert We finished our meals with an enormous portion of mango with sticky rice ($6). The rice wasn't quite as sweet as some versions we've had, but the mango was gorgeously ripe, so the dish still satisfied.
Service During our visit, three waitstaff joined forces to handle all the tables in the busy dining room. Their tag-team strategy worked. Our food was paced correctly, our water glasses remained full and we never had to wait an extra minute — not for a new beer, to order or for the check.
All three had cheery dispositions, too, which cemented our impression of Mayuree as a welcoming spot, approachable on every level.
Mayuree Thai Tavern
Backstory: Owner Pensiri Rungrujiphaisal opened Mayuree Thai Tavern last summer in the Canton space that formerly housed Geckos. The restaurant serves approachable Thai food and a handful of original recipes.
Parking: Street parking
Signature dish: The five-spice roasted duck, with its reliance on Chinese five-spice powder, has great flavor, without going overboard with heat.
Where: 2318 Fleet St., Canton
Contact: 667-212-5509; facebook.com/mayureethaitavern
Open: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; noon. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday
Credit Cards: All major
Bottom line: What Mayuree lacks in adventurous Thai dishes, it makes up for in tasty entrees and good service.
Nearby reviews: DishBaltimore.com - Canton/Highlandtown