The owners spent January and February last year remodeling the building, long an outpost of the forgettable (at best) Mr. Chau's chain of Chinese fast-food restaurants. From the outside, it still looks like whatever it was to begin with, from ancient days before there were strip malls. But inside is pleasant under a dark wood ceiling, like a boat on Thailand's River of Kings.
Tommy Thai is different from other Thai restaurants in several ways. One is that there are Cambodian dishes on the menu. Another is the flexibility of the menu and ease of substitution. Don't want bamboo shoots in your red curry pork? Ask for bell peppers instead. Or dump the peppers and get eggplant.
One of the chefs is Thai, one Cambodian. The manager is Cambodian and the owners Chinese.
Vegetarians find lots of choices beyond the usual deep-fried tofu appetizer ($5.95). Tommy Thai's extensive vegetarian menu offers six appetizers, three salads, three noodle dishes, eight curries, three soups, four fried-rice dishes and 10 specialties including steamed spinach tofu ($7.95) and spicy eggplant basil tofu ($7.95).
Prices are probably going up this month, but in December, the $6.99 lunch's popularity was marred only by the charge for rice ($1). Lunch comes with soup and salad, not rice. However, instead of receiving a tin pot of gluey grains, you get a steaming bowl of moist and chewy rice, brown or white, for your $1.
Return trips for lunch offer fresh adventure. The 20 dishes are sauteed, pan-fried or stewed, and you pick your protein in each case. Two rules to keep in mind at Tommy Thai: Portions are large, and spicy means spicy.
We hardly dented the menu, starting with a lovely silver noodle salad ($8.95) stocked with tender beef. Po tak soup was a refreshing brew of hot and sour seafood. The small bowl ($8.95) was more than enough for two people. Of course they also have tom yum and tom kha soups, as well as tom jurd woon and four noodle soups. Also satisfying was the yellow curry chicken ($8.95).
The server wisely suggested hor mok ($11.95 with rock cod, $13.95 with seafood). Chunks of meltingly delicious fish spring hot from the foil wrapping, in a stew of Napa cabbage, basil, egg, coconut milk and red curry.
From the Cambodian specialties, we did not love trob char kreoung ($9.95 with shrimp). It wasn't the shrimp's fault. They were fresh and plentiful. It was the oversupply of red and green peppers. Had I known, I would have asked for more eggplant instead.
As for beverages, bypass the two-wine wine list and drink beer or tea.
About the name, Tommy Thai: For a brief period after Mr. Chau's, the restaurant was called Tommy T's Grill. One of Tommy Thai's chefs is named Tom, so to keep it simple they stuck with Tommy. (Or else, the usual Thai restaurant names were taken.)
1482 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Credit cards: yes
Parking: parking lot
Alcohol: beer and wine
Outdoor dining: yes
Party and banquet facilities: no
Noise level: medium
Bathroom cleanliness: fair