Save by tasting the Thai Bistro buffet – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Louis dish beef is served during Thai Bistro’s lunch buffet and is available on its regular menu. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Kids ages 7-12 can eat the Thai Bistro buffet lunch for $10.95. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Tilapia is prepared in a red curry sauce for the lunch buffet at Thai Bistro in Medford. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

A plate from the Thai Bistro lunch buffet includes, top left, spicy catfish, sweet and sour tofu, tempura vegetables and chicken yakisoba. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Desserts are included in the lunch buffet at Thai Bistro in Medford. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Aquariums are part of the decor at Thai Bistro in Medford. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Medford Restaurant serves all-you-can-eat lunch on weekdays

The cost of restaurant food that once seemed affordable for take-out or family fare made me reconsider convenience over value.

Pizza, sushi, Mexican and Thai food have all had higher prices – like so many other products and services – since the coronavirus pandemic. And they should. But that also means I probably shouldn’t eat it as often.

However, significant savings still reside in some local lunch buffets. And Thai Bistro in Medford is near the top of my list. A recent lunch with my son sampled half a dozen dishes, plus entrees and desserts, for less than the cost of two regular entrees.

Thai Bistro has long held the top tier of Thai food prices in Medford. But the restaurant founded in 1999 by Sandy Buakhieo has enjoyed a loyal following, even during the pandemic’s pivot to takeout only. I heard several months ago that the dining room on Stevens Street had reopened and was scheduled for a visit.

Unsure of the status of Thai Bistro’s popular lunch buffet, I felt like I had arrived late to the party on a recent weekday. The vast dining room has welcomed many customers, in small and large groups, for both the buffet and the regular menu.

More interested in Thai Bistro’s fish tanks than its hotline, my son lit up at the mention of beef and the sight of cookies and other desserts at the end of the buffet. Because the seats closest to the aquariums were occupied, we chose a stand with a direct path to the food.

Offering all you can eat on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the buffet costs $15.95 for adults, $10.95 for ages 7 to 12, $7.50 for ages 3 to 6 and is free for children 2 and under.

Variety was weighted slightly towards vegetarian and seafood options the day we visited. I eagerly prepared sweet and sour tofu and “vegetable delight” over a hearty helping of fried rice, taking small amounts of spicy catfish and red curry tilapia. Fish lover, I am demanding on species, especially farmed ones.

My son picked up some fried rice and looked at the vegetables left in the tray labeled ‘Louis dish beef’. The host had assured us that the direct line was being filled when we walked in, and I told my son to wait a few more minutes until a new batch of beef arrived.

Because we ended up waiting about 20 minutes, I allowed her to choose a cookie and a brownie and still take a look at the aquatic life in the dining room. My opinion of finned specimens prepared for consumption was surprisingly favorable.

The tilapia, which I often find tastes muddy, was the cleanest I can remember tasting at a local restaurant. The red curry sauce – sprinkled with peppers and tomatoes – revealed spices that tempered the inherent flavor of the fish without overpowering it.

While the large tilapia fillet was tender and flaky, the smaller strips of catfish had a chewier but pleasant texture. A light coating soaked up the sauce from the fish, which transmitted just enough heat and convinced me to come back for a few more strips.

I only wish I could have tasted the vegetable tempura straight out of the fryer. The onion ring, mushroom half, and zucchini wedge I selected weren’t as delicately battered as some tempura versions, but they would definitely be at their hottest peak.

A better bet was the fried spring roll, its wrapper still flaky despite going through the steamer tray. I enjoyed it with a cup of soup of the day, glass noodles with chicken, in which the leafy greens were more apparent than the poultry. Chicken has also given way to vegetables in yakisoba.

The beef dish finally replenished, my son made runs for the buffet, and I thought I could handle a little taste. Urging him to toss some vegetables with the meat, I countered his carnivorous tendencies by seeking out vibrant snow peas, crunchy water chestnuts, mouth-watering baby corn and shiitake mushrooms, enriched with a generous addition of whole cashews. A simple stir-fry in a mild and savory sauce, the dish was delicious straight from the kitchen.

I was too stuffed even for a palate-cleansing salad, which consisted of thick slices of cucumber and tomato wedges alongside melon cubes. My son raved about the sweets while I had an obligatory single bite of coconut-crusted fried banana, another item best enjoyed straight from his oil bath.

Those who prefer to order Thai Bistro’s regular lunch menu can expect prices ranging from $13.95 for meat or tofu to $16.95 for seafood. Among my favorite entrees, the fried fish crispy and roast duck are $13.95 and $15.95 respectively.

By comparison, the Chef’s Special Roast Duck in Wine Sauce is $26.95 on the Thai Bistro dinner menu. Acknowledging that lunch portions are smaller, the menu indicates that lunch and dinner are served all day.

Located at 535 Stevens St., Thai Bistro is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. See or call 541-772-6200.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or [email protected]

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