7467 Girard Ave.,
La Jolla 92037
Mon. to Thurs.: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Fri. to Sat.: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sun.: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Newly opened Aroi Cafe offers a modest depiction of an authentic Thai restaurant. Like most Thai places traditionally presented in a low light setting, Aroi Cafe’s ambiance definitely delivers on the promised “darkness” but perhaps a bit too much. Embellished with limited Oriental decor, the atmosphere is slightly on the gloomy side rather than an embodiment of a genuine Thai experience. Making up for the lack of authenticity, however, Aroi plays placid, native Thai music in the background and provides benevolently attentive service from the moment you walk in until the moment you leave.
Thai cuisine is known for bringing harmony to otherwise discordant flavors, a marvel to the connoisseur world. Aroi Cafe’s dishes certainly live up to this Thai-style expectation. Starting off with the light appetizer, “Chicken Satay,” ($9) is a surefire choice that tingles the taste buds with its savory marinated chicken contrasted against a delicate, sweet peanut sauce. In addition to this starter, you might consider adding “Half Moon,” “Summer Rolls” or “Por Pia Tord,” each delivering uniquely memorable tastes to start off the meal. Aroi also offers traditional Thai soups such as the “Tom Kha,” a strong mixture of soothing, creamy coconut milk, crisp mushrooms, a pungent dash of lemon and a plethora of fresh salads, such as the cucumber salad, “Crying Tiger” and “Papaya Salad.”
For the main course, Aroi offers a variety of fulfilling entrees. Ranging from noodles (stir-fried and soups) to fried rice to curries, Aroi serves a fair representation of a typical Thai meal. They also offer customers the power to choose whether or not to add a kick of spiciness to their meal, ranging from a scale of one — a mild spike to make things interesting — to a hot 10 — a worthy competitor to a blazing fire. If you’re looking for something different, the chef’s specialty, “Crab Fried Rice,” is a noteworthy mention. With jasmine rice providing a lightly sweet aroma, chewy scallions, crisp green peas and carrots and, of course a good portion of tangy crab meat, the “Crab Fried Rice” stands as a definite dish to satiate any hunger. Other specialty dishes worth mentioning are the “Duck Curry,” “Lad Nah Noodles” and “Pad Ped Stir Fry.”
At the end of the day, Aroi Cafe offers appetizing and filling dishes worthy of carrying the Thai culture’s name. However, considering the rather banal ambiance, this restaurant is more suited for a family type of meal than a typical, casual place to eat for college students.
In short: Go for the food, not for the experience.