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Pork jerky, papaya salad, sticky rice and dipping sauce are featured at Medford's Vim Thai, where Tasty Thai used to be. Photo by Anita Burke

New Vim Thai is plenty tasty

A co-worker introduced me to Tasty Thai shortly after I moved to the Rogue Valley, and for years the Medford restaurant was a regular lunch spot, appreciated for affordable and reliably good food. This summer, the owners retired after 18 years, leaving fans of their noodles, curries and fried rice one less place to get standard Thai restaurant fare.

Now a family-owned chain with roots in the Los Angeles area has reinvigorated the space at 725 S. Central Ave. and is serving up Thai food that is plenty tasty.

Vim Thai Restaurant opened in October after its space tucked between Central and Riverside avenues was revamped. The interior combines stained wood paneling and floors with a plethora of plastic plants and tables emblazoned with details about Vim’s history and recipes in bold red and black.

The tabletops explain that Vim was founded in Los Angeles in 1980 and has grown to five restaurants. The Medford location is the first in Oregon and the only one outside California.

When my husband and I stopped in for a late lunch, he zeroed in on the lunch special menu, which features 15 items for $8.95 each. Instead of the pale iceberg lettuce salad and fried spring roll common at many Medford Thai restaurants, Vim offers a choice of fried wontons or shrimp wonton soup with most lunch specials. The majority of the stir-fried dishes are served with white rice topped with a fried egg.

Bypassing the familiar options, my husband ordered pork jerky, a dish that in Thailand is traditionally made by drying strips of pork in the sun, then grilling or frying them. The rich strips of pork on his plate were crisp and flavorful, reminiscent of the meatiest of chicharrones. A tangy soy-based dipping sauce enhanced with chilies and green onion provided the perfect accent. I loved the papaya salad on the side, a mélange of shredded papaya, carrots, sliced tomato, green beans and peanuts bathed in a zesty lime juice dressing. A foil-wrapped ball of sticky rice rounded out his plate.

Although the lunch menu offered plenty of tempting options, a pumpkin curry special handwritten on a chalkboard near the door sounded like the perfect fall dish for me. I ordered it with tofu instead of bulking it up with chicken or beef. Designed to be served family style from a boat-shaped dish, the curry, priced at $10.50, featured chunks of bright orange kabocha squash still wearing its tender, dark green skin, red and green bell pepper, hearty cubes of tofu and fragrant basil smothered in an unctuously rich, flavorful sauce that perfectly balanced spicy and savory flavors. I got an order of brown rice to accompany it for $4, while my husband soaked up some of the sauce with the slightly chewy remnants of his sticky rice.

Vim is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and from 4 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Take-out is available. Call 541-779-1148.

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