Urban Thai

Drowning in a sea of ol' arrabiata, the College Street strip is made the better for housing the still saucy, spicy, but unmistakably un-Italian Urban Thai.

Penny-pinchers and big spenders alike will thrill at the top quality Thai fare, creatively and generously served -- all for prices that will still allow you to catch that second-run movie down at the Royal (or that high-kicking show at the Royal Alex) after dinner.

The mister and I start our meal off with the Thai Mango salad and servings of both the vegetarian spring rolls and the more health conscious salad rolls. The Thai Mango Salad provides a sunny burst to the start of the meal -- delicate matchstick-sized slices of sweet, firm mango, bermuda onion and red peppers huddle together sweetly and are perfectly enhanced (and ne'er overpowered by) an excellent homemade shallot chili dressing. The veggie spring rolls are textbook perfect -- crispy, flaky Thai pastry filled with gently spiced vegetables and thin glass noodles. Just as good are the un-deep-fried veggie version of the salad rolls - very fresh tasting soft rice paper stuffed with cucumber, avocado, egg, tofu, lettuce and carrot and served with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce.

Next comes the soup course. I go for the Coconut Chicken Soup -- deceivingly simple looking, but a masterwork, I swear, consisting of nothing but an incredibly rich coconut red curry base and perfect spoon sized pieces of tender white meat chicken. Not to be missed. The mister goes for the less decadent, but as thoughtfully executed, Thai Mushroom Soup -- soft button mushrooms float in a spicy yet soothing broth flavoured with fresh lemongrass, lime juice and hints of chili.

Over the course of several visits, the Mister and I end up sampling several of the entrees up for offer. All were great -- best included: the curries, red, green, golden and the mysteriously not listed on the table menu, but available on request, Malaysian curry, were all winners. Perfectly tender but never mushy vegetables and your choice of tofu, chicken beef, lamb or jumbo shrimp sit happily in a very generous bowl of outstanding coconut curry. Fragrant jasmine rice accompanies the meal, or, if you are so inclined (as I was), for little extra you can get a steaming bowl of sticky rice made from a mix of white and wild rices, served with a fabulous homemade peanut sauce. Also good are the Thai Eggplant and the Avocado-Peanut Stir-Fry. The eggplant defies my usual hesitations about the shiny purple guest -- no chewy, undercooked cubes or impossibly tough skins here -- the stuff is served up in pinky-finger sized strips marinated and long-cooked to become creamier than all heck and spiced into the realm of utterly delicious. The Avocado-Peanut Stir-Fry satisfies the produce quota for the health conscious diner looking for a veggie-based dish while providing the satisfying twist on the trad stir-fry by adding whole peanuts and a generous dose of "vegan-caviar" -- perfectly ripe and rich avocado.

On offer for dessert are Thai specialties like fried banana with ice cream and sweet coconut sticky rice. A modest selection of imported beers and a creatively conceived cocktail list also excite.

Another bonus -- Urban Thai's curries and many of their other dishes are gluten-free and vegan if ordered with tofu. They are open late (until midnight, sometimes later) and boast a friendly, accommodating staff. Perfect for a date, a birthday gathering or a business lunch, Urban Thai needs to be added to your list of must-eats.

located at 638 College Street (at Grace)

Average meal $20.00 per person, includes appetizer and entree. Average main $10-$12, cheaper at lunch.

call for more info - (416) 535-THAI

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