Panang 2–Oklahoma City, OK

Panang 2
14101 N. May Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 752-8400
Panang 2

Panang 2 on N. May Ave. across from Quail Springs Mall


Panang 2 and Tana Thai are two Thai restaurants on North May Avenue in the Quail Springs area, and in my opinion they really could not offer more of a contrast and still be classified as Thai food. Panang is part of a “mini-chain” of three restaurants (No. 1 is in south OKC and a third restaurant is in Edmond). Tana Thai is a small family owned restaurant with more limited hours and seating, so I would say Panang is more upscale. The menu is much larger at Panang, although Tana Thai covers all the basics. One of the biggest differences I have noticed is in the portion size–Panang gives what I consider to be very large portions compared to the “normal” Thai restaurant (and to Tana Thai). Panang is in a more modern building with what I consider to be a better parking lot.

Many of Panang’s dishes have received a lower rating from me because they are sweet for my taste. Many of the dishes at Panang also have MSG, while the ones at Tana Thai do not as far as I know. Overall I consider Tana Thai to have better food, but with at least one notable exception (that being the ginger stir fried). The prices are about equal at both restaurants, so those who think the food is better at Tana Thai (as I do) also have to consider whether it is worth it to get what are generally smaller portions.

Panang on the south side

Panang in South OKC

Panang’s multiple locations indicate that it has a loyal following, and I definitely understand the reason for this. It has a comfortable atmosphere even if you come during off hours (such as the middle of the afternoon), take out orders are reliable, and Thai food is one of my favorites. The prices are reasonable for the quantity served, and I have never gone away hungry from any of their meals.

After eating the panang curry I made a note that it was easy on the stomach (this must have been when I was having some digestion problems), but I would say that Tana Thai is the same way. My preference for Tana Thai does not exclude Panang from being a good choice as well.

Lunch Specials

Basil chicken lunch special

Basil chicken lunch special

Panang has lunch combo meals Monday through Friday until 2:00 P.M. which give you a lot of food for prices that are a good deal lower than most of the dinner items. The choices change daily, but one I thought was fairly good was the Basil Chicken served on Wednesday (they also have basil pork on Monday and basil beef on Friday).

The lunch combos come with four items, but there is large flexibility in choosing these items (or you can get a double portion of any item). The one in the above photo came with rice, spring roll, and pad thai, along with what I thought was a generous portion of basil chicken.

While the basil chicken was not as spectacular as Tana Thai would serve it, I still though this was a good meal (the green beans were crisp and everything on the plate was good).

I am not a huge fan of the spring roll, and customers are allowed to substitute something else for it, but I think it goes well on the lunch combination plate.

Pad thai lunch special

Pad thai lunch combo with green curry

I had heard that the Green Curry at Panang was one of the best items, so I ordered this lunch combo when I came on a day that the green curry was available (my records show that it was a Thursday). I ordered it with a double portion of Pad Thai (the curry was very good but I think it would probably be better to skip the pad thai or just get a single portion of it).

Many dishes from the main menu are not available on the lunch, but in my opinion it would probably be worthwhile if they have the green curry, panang curry, or basil chicken.

Stir Fried Dishes

Ginger stir fried

Ginger stir fried with tofu

The Ginger Stir Fried dish is the item I have tried that I think is notably better than its counterpart at Tana Thai. I thought the blend of flavors was very good, and I appreciated the fact that Panang serves large portions on its dinner menu (I do not believe this item is available on the lunch special). There is a choice of different meats or tofu, and I thought the large amount of vegetables made it better than many dishes served at other restaurants. It also had a strong ginger flavor (one of the reasons I prefer this to the one at Tana Thai).

Spicy stir fried

Spicy stir fried with tofu

Another good dish is the Spicy Stir Fried (this one was also with tofu). This was made with a curry paste (made without coconut milk) which possibly makes it more flavorful and less sweet than the regular curries. There was a good basil flavor to the dish, and the green beans were a very good touch.

Sweet and sour stir fried

Sweet and sour stir fried with chicken

To me the Sweet and Sour Stir Fried was pretty much devoid of Thai flavors, and would not be one of my first choices for ordering, but the chicken and vegetables were good.

Curries

Panang curry

Panang curry with tofu

The two curries I have tried so far have been good choices, although I was informed that the curries are all made with MSG (so far I have not noticed that it is a problem for me when I eat the curry). The Panang Curry was especially good because of the lime leaves, and I would recommend this dish in spite of its sweetness and the MSG (which did not seem to be in a very great amount).

The Green Curry (shown in a lunch combo photo) is often cited by on-line reviews as the restaurant’s best dish, and I would also say it is a good one (but I would probably give the nod to the panang curry).

Fried Rice

Pineapple fried rice

Pineapple fried rice

The Pineapple Fried Rice seemed to be fairly devoid of flavor, although it can be made better by adding your own chiles from the condiment bar.

Thai Tea

Thai tea

Thai tea

My main problem with the Thai Tea here is the price. I definitely think it goes well with the food here, but it is more expensive than if you are getting regular tea.

This photo also shows the Thai condiments which are available, and which I think have turned some mediocre dishes I have been served into good ones (a good thing to keep in mind since the condiments are free).

Other Details
The spice level is higher than at other restaurants, so usually one star is enough for me (although the panang curry comes with a default level of 2, and I thought it was about right for this dish). A waiter at Panang told me, though, that pad thai and fried rice use dried chiles which have a lower heat level than on the other dishes.

I know that the curries have MSG and the ginger stir fired does not, but I do not know about the other dishes. I believe the MSG is used in small quantities, though.

Most of the food here is very sweet, and because of that I generally prefer other Thai restaurants. The ginger stir fried had a flavor that I thought was very good, though (with a good blend of flavors). The lime leaves make the panang curry special in spite of its sweetness.


RATING: 22

Cuisine: Thai
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 3, 2017
Number of Visits: 6
Best Items: Ginger Stir Fried, Panang Curry

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Thai Tea
MSG: Yes
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Panang Curry
star 5 Ginger Stir Fried
star 5 Green Curry
star 5 Basil Chicken Stir Fried
star 5 Spicy Stir Fried
star 4 Pineapple Fried Rice
star 4 Pad Thai
star 3 Sweet and Sour Stir Fried
star 4 Thai Tea

 

Menu (Aug. 2017):

 

Family Pho–Oklahoma City, OK

Family Pho
13325 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 470-0648
Family Pho

Family Pho


Family Pho is a small family run Vietnamese restaurant in a strip shopping center that is really not typical of other such restaurants. They do not serve the pseudo Chinese food found in most strip mall restaurants (the food here is strictly Vietnamese). The flavors are authentic (as far as I can tell), and the menu is closer to the restaurants in the Asian District than to other strip mall restaurants. They definitely do not have all the menu items served in the larger Asian District restaurants, but the pho selections are very good, as are the rice and vermicelli dish choices.

I am encouraged about this type of restaurant because the clientele is overwhelming non-Vietnamese, yet the menu is easy to navigate for both those who are Vietnamese food experts and those who really do not have much knowledge about it. My advice to first time diners would probably be to try the pho–not only because this is the restaurant’s specialty but also because I think this restaurant has a very good version of it.

Those who want authentic Vietnamese flavors will find it here, I believe, but the choices are more limited than in the Asian District.

Pho

Chicken pho

Chicken pho

So far I have only tried the Pho Ga, or the chicken version (chicken breast meat in a chicken broth). This is not a slap at the other types of soup at Family Pho, it is because I find the chicken pho disappointing at many restaurants and I am very glad to find one that is good. The flavor is quite good, but probably more important to me is the fact that the restaurant does not use MSG (which leaves me free from worry about how I am going to feel after the meal).

The chicken pho has a chicken broth and white meat chicken as the main soup ingredient. Other types of non-beef soup are also available, including vegetarian, shrimp, and seafood.

They told me that one of the “secret” ingredients in the soup that makes it so good is cinnamon, although it is not obvious when tasting it, and this is just one of the ingredients used to make the flavors balanced.

Vermicelli Bowl

Lemongrass chicken

Lemongrass chicken vermicelli bowl

There are not many suburban restaurants that have a Lemongrass Chicken Vermicelli Bowl, but Family Pho has it (as well as lemongrass beef). This is also one of my favorite items here, although it did have the shortcoming of not having mint as one of the ingredients. The rest of it, though, is good enough for it to say on my “want to order” list.

Banh Mi

Banh mi

Banh mi

Although I did not order the sandwich myself, I have a photo of it as well as a recommendation to order it.

Recommendations
My personal preference here is the pho because it is quite good, the regular (small) bowl is more than filling, it is less expensive than the lemongrass vermicelli bowls, and this is one of the few restaurants where the pho does not have MSG. I certainly like the vermicelli bowl, but when it comes to ordering something that is better than at other restaurants I think it is the pho.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Sep. 8, 2017
Number of Visits: 5
Best Item: Chicken Pho

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine (bags), Thai Tea, Milk Tea
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Pho Ga (Chicken)
star 5 Lemongrass Chicken Vermicelli Bowl

 

Menu (Jul. 2017):

 

Zarate’s–Edmond, OK

Zarate’s Latin Mexican Grill
706 S. Broadway
Edmond, OK
(405) 330-6400
Zarate's Restaurant

Zarate’s in Edmond


The cuisine at Zarate’s covers just about every country from Latin America, including South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Some countries are represented by one or two dishes, but the greatest variety is found for Mexican and Peruvian food. Flags of various countries are placed on the menu next to each dish to indicate its country of origin, and I thought it was quite interesting to have so many types of food available in one place.

The Peruvian dishes are from the owner’s homeland, so this seemed like a good bet for trying something “authentic” (or at least that the chefs had a lot of experience preparing). I suspect that dishes from many other countries were probably equally authentic, since food and recipes tend to migrate to nearby countries in Latin America just as they do from state to state in the U.S., and from Mexico to this country.

The Mexican items on the menu, by contrast, seemed to be the type of Tex-Mex dishes served in many Oklahoma and Texas restaurants, but which do not typically represent traditional style Mexican food. The Mexican food I tried was good (and was Tex-Mex style), but dishes from the other countries seemed more special because they are items that are not served in many restaurants.

The main choice for Peruvian dishes seemed to be between ceviche (made with fish or seafood) and the meat, seafood, or vegetable platters. Ceviche is generally considered the “national dish” of Peru, but takes about 20-25 minutes to prepare, according to the menu.

Pollo Saltado

Pollo saltado

Pollo saltado

I think the dish I have enjoyed the most has been the Pollo Saltado, a flavorful roasted chicken that was not spicy, but was topped with vegetables and garnishes. I thought this was a very good introduction to South American food, provided one is hungry for meat (two vegetarian versions are also available: one with spinach and one with spinach and linguini). The saltado dish is also available with seafood or beef. The chicken was good, though, and I thought was one of the better versions of chicken I have had in the OKC area.

The Peruvian dishes come with side dishes that are typical of the country. Standard on each dish are fried plantains and yuca. Sliced tomatoes and onions provide added flavor.

Pollo saltado with yellow sauce

Pollo saltado with aji

The former version of this dish came with yellow aji amarillo sauce and brown rice. The restaurant told me that the aji sauce is no longer available, but I think it would be a definite improvement if they brought it back.

Caribbean Food

Jamaican jerk chicken

Jamaican jerk chicken

One that I wanted to try (and was recommended by the waiter) was Jamaican Curry Chicken, and I can assume this is one of Zarate’s specialties. This was sauteed chicken with potatoes, and a Caribbean style curry sauce. I cannot judge how authentic it was, but it was good. However, I did not think it was quite as spectacular as I have heard that some Jamaican dishes can be.

Brazilian Food

Feijoada

Feijoada

Zarate’s also offers Feijoada, the “national dish” from Brazil made of black beans with ham, ground pork, and pulled pork. I thought this had a good flavor but certainly not a vibrant flavor, and did not seem to match the type of Brazilian food I have had at Cafe do Brasil in downtown Oklahoma City. Still, it left me wanting to try more of the different national dishes from Central and South American offered at Zarate’s.

Mexican Food
Chips and salsa come with every meal (at least on the dinners), and I thought they were good. The special spicy salsa I once got on request, though, was even better. The Rice was quite surprising, with a tomato flavor that reminded me of the good versions served in El Paso (it was surprising because I usually do not find this in Oklahoma).

A Chile Relleno I sampled was also quite good, although since I judge all of these chiles by the ones in New Mexico I only gave it four stars out of five.

Some Other Notes
Zarate’s has a lunch menu that comes at substantially reduced prices, but the tradeoff is that not all dishes are available (including the pollo saltado). I cannot speak for the other dinners, but I thought the pollo saltado was very good, and probably provided a better value than many of the lunches even though you have to pay more for it.

Zarate’s has several Peruvian dishes, but it is not a Peruvian restaurant. It does not serve chicha morada, and no longer has aji sauce. The menu is mostly Mexican and a variety of “national dishes” from various Latin American countries. Still, I have found the pollo saltado to be better than at some of the full fledged Peruvian restaurants I have tried, and I would probably say Zarate’s is the best Peruvian restaurant in town (in fact I would definitely say this, but it is subject to making other discoveries at the other restaurants).


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Peruvian, Mexican, Latin American
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, Margaritas

Most Recent Visit: Jul. 11, 2017

Number of Visits: 4

Best Items: Pollo Saltado, Plantains, Mexican Style Rice

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Pollo Saltado
star 4 Jamaican Jerk Chicken
star 4 Feijoada
star 4 Chile Relleno
star 4 Quesadilla
star 5 Rice (Mexican)
star 5 Plantains
star 4 Chips
star 3 Salsa
star 4 Salsa (Spicy)
star 3 Queso