Red Chili

Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Maybe

Red ChiliThis Thai and Vietnamese restaurant has been sitting in wait at the corner of Mission and Industrial in Hayward.  It sees us every few days as we pass by and watches intently as we frequent the gyro place next door.  It finally caught us; we gave the Red Chili a try.

The inside is very nice and totally isn’t what I expected seeing the outside (just like the gyro place).  It’s spacious and nicely decorated and has a nice feel to it.  And, surprisingly, it seems to draw a crowd, which is refreshing and reassuring at the same time.

Red Chili Restaurant

The inside of the Red Chili in Hayward.

The menu is a mix of Thai and Vietnamese just as the sign outside suggests.  There are Thai curries, Thai soups, Vietnamese soups called pho, Vietnamese vermicelli dishes, and standard Thai noodle dishes (ex: Pad Thai), fried rice and a variety of combo dishes including BBQ meat and rice dishes.  On many dishes you can choose the level of spiciness to suit your preferences.

During our visit, we ordered shrimp spring rolls as an appetizer, Pad Thai, the Yellow Curry lunch special, and BBQ Onion Beef Skewer over rice.  The appetizer was a little bit of a disaster; we thought it was only shrimp and no other meat, but in fact there was a slab of pork in each one.  This could be removed relatively easily for us half-veggos, but I think we were all envisioning the kind of spring rolls that are crispy and deep fried, not the fresh, cold ones.  I’ve made this mistake before and clearly not learned.  They were all right, but we weren’t exactly gobbling them up.  This was more of a personal preference though, they were made well enough.

Spring Rolls

Cold spring rolls appetizer at Red Chili, Hayward.

The Pad Thai was good (as it should be); sweet and yummy with bits of tofu and egg scattered throughout.  The Yellow Curry lunch was quite good but is always hard to eat as it’s a million degrees upon arrival.  I ended up dumping the cute little square bowl of food onto my plate to let everything cool off for a while.  I ordered the tofu version which added a nice texture to the accompanying potatoes and onions.  The BBQ Beef skewer looked pretty good and got decent reviews.

Pad Thai

Can't go wrong with Pad Thai noodles.

Yellow Curry

Yellow Curry Lunch Combo with tofu at Red Chili, Hayward.

BBQ Beef Skewers

BBQ Beef Skewers meal at Red Chili, Hayward.

My only complaint about the main meals (BBQ Beef and Curry Lunch special) was the way the included soup and salad were served.  I typically expect soup and salad to come before the meal and for them to come one at a time.  Some deviation from this is ok, but the salad was a very tiny plop of greens sharing the plate with our meals and the soup was actually brought after the meal.  Not way after, but still, I was already started on the main food and wasn’t really feeling soupish anymore.  Plus the tomato based, somewhat spicy soup that they serve isn’t something I really like–is it vinegar they put in it?  I’m not sure but I’m not a fan.

Thai soup

The soup looks good, but isn't my favorite at Red Chili.

Ok, now, the service.  This is really my only main complaint, but it’s a big one.  They were clearly understaffed for how many customers were there, which may or may not be a habitual occurrence.  It’s hard to judge that from one meal.  But the waiters and bus-people who were present were not very friendly, were inattentive, and were generally not very good at their jobs as far as I experienced.  When a good waitress walks down an aisle of tables, they are typically looking around to see if any of the customers are trying to catch their eye, seeing who’s ready to order, taking away finished plates, or checking drink levels. These folks were just walking around looking at the ceiling.

We were seated promptly, but the prompt-ness stopped there.  We had to flag down a woman to order from, we waited a while for our food, and each interaction with the wait staff was wholly unimpressive.  I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but they made it very difficult here.  Overall, I’d try this place again, but if the service wasn’t any better I’d say it’s not worth the frustration.

Red Chile on Urbanspoon

Top Thai

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 5/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yep

I honestly don’t know of too many Thai places in the Hayward/Castro Valley area, so when my dad took us to Top Thai on Castro Valley Boulevard, I was intrigued.  There may indeed be many Thai places around, I just don’t know about them.  I’ve been to one place on Foothill in Hayward years ago, but I can’t really even think up the location of any others.  But no matter, Top Thai certainly fills the void.

TT is in a tiny, unassuming, single story building across from the ridiculously huge and sort-of-awful Rite Aid at the eastern end of CVB in Castro Valley.  I probably would have never noticed it, and even if I did, it doesn’t look terribly enticing from the outside.  One step inside the doors, however, and the scenery is transformed.  The decor at Top Thai is very nice.  So nice that it looks like a professional may have had a hand in it, either that or the owner is quite savvy.  Thai-themed artwork scattered tastefully around the walls, dark wood tables and chairs, and subdued lighting all work together for a warm, homey, classy feel inside Top Thai.  Kudos, guys.

One of two nicely decorated seating areas at Top Thai in Castro Valley.

Seat by the window at Top Thai.

The reason we came, however, was not for the wall hangings.  My dad is a true believer in this place, he will testify that the food is darn good.  After trying it, I agree.  The service when we were there was excellent, also, which makes for an even more enthusiastic desire to return.  There are many waitresses, all who are extremely polite and almost too attentive.  Your water glass is refilled before you even know it’s half empty (not being a pessimist here, half empty works better to describe a glass that needs to be refilled).  They “please” and “thank you” you nearly to death.  So polite, so helpful, so attentive.  Not really much more you could ask in that category, I suppose.

We ordered a good variety of food starting with spring rolls and ending with mango and sticky rice and fried banana with ice cream.  The menu has many meat options, but also has a plentiful vegetarian section, for all the veggos out there.  The spring rolls were good, pretty standard fare for a Thai place.  They claimed that the sauce it came with was plum sauce, but what we got was clearly sweet chili sauce (aka sweet and sour sauce).  My dad, being the waiter-questioner that he is, asked the waitress if the dish wasn’t supposed to come with plum sauce instead?  She politely informed us that the sauce on our place was plum sauce.  I beg to differ, Ms. Waitress Lady.  But, she said it with a sincere smile, so nothing could be done short of making a scene.  Plus, I like sweet chili sauce with my spring rolls, thank you very much.

Thai Spring Rolls at Top Thai.

For our entrees*, we ordered a salmon curry, vegetarian pad Thai, Green Top Thai (mixed green beans, zucchini, broccoli, and baby bok choy), and dad got BBQ beef.  There are two salmon curries on the menu, and I think I ordered the Penang curry; I did whichever one the girl recommended was less spicy.  It was quite good: tender salmon, creamy curry sauce (not too spicy, indeed), and chunky veggies.  The pad Thai was good, as usual – again, nothing terribly special about a Thai place that serves good pad Thai.  My dad enjoyed his BBQ beef and the side of sweet chili sauce it came with, which was, incidentally, the same sauce as was served with our spring rolls.  It’s gotta be one or the other, people, the same sauce can’t be both sweet chili and plum!  I digress.  The veggies were really good – it’s nice to see a mix of my favorite veggies all on one plate at a restaurant (baby bok choy far surpasses regular-sized bok choy in edibility, in my opinion).  It was certainly more than enough food, but we made sure to go on to dessert anyway.

Salmon with Penang Sauce at Top Thai.

Vegetarian Pad Thai and Green Top Thai with BBQ Beef behind at Top Thai.

BBQ Beef with rice at Top Thai.

Boyfriend ordered the mango and sticky rice, reminiscent of our trip to Thailand.  This dessert is everywhere in Thailand; the rice is sticky and sweet and made with sugar and coconut milk, giving it a dessert-y texture and taste.  We tried to make it once at home and it just wasn’t the same.  The stuff at this place was pretty much the same as what we got in Thailand, though I’m not a huge mango fan so I only tried a bite.  We also ordered fried banana and ice cream, which I thought was just ok.  But what can I say, I’m a chocolate and hot-fudge-sundae kind of gal, so these fruity desserts typically don’t strike me the same as, say, Death-By-Chocolate Pie.

Mango with Sticky Rice in front, Fried Banana and Ice Cream behind, at Top Thai.

Top Thai is certainly well named in my opinion, I’d be happy to go back again for great service, beautiful atmosphere, and delicious food.

*Side Note: Did you know they call appetizers “entrees” in Australia?  It confused the heck out of us for a long time; we could not figure out why the entrees were always listed first on all the menus.

P.S. – Sorry for the void in posts, I was in Japan on vacation for three weeks and didn’t write quite enough drafts to stave off suspicion of my absence on this site.  But, I’m back, and I’m hungry.  See you here again soon.