Durham >Chai's Noodle Bar & Bistro
Worst service I've ever had in my life.. I'm not too hypercritical about restaruants, but this place simply provided the worst service I've EVER experienced in my life. The food is mediocre, but one time, my friend ordered something that tasted like absolutely nothing; there was no flavor in it whatsoever. 3 people tried it, and we all agreed there was something wrong with it. We asked the manager if he could fix it and gave us his first piece of attitude. All they did was add a whole bunch of soysauce. I didn't think it could get worse--but it did. It was the most ridiculously salty dish. We had to take it back, and the manager absolutely lost his mind and temper on us (in front of all the other customers and workers) because all we wanted was a reasonable mediocre dish they had served before (and mediocre at best). I was completely calm and professional, and that manager completely lost it. I had never seen anything like it before. There was nothing else we could do because he was the manager. He completely embarrassed us and obviously shows that he has little respect for any of his customers. The only reason this restaurant is still open is because it's near hungry college students. I really hope this place shuts down. If you ever have problems with the food and you want to experience the wrath, complain to the manager.
Good food, automatic credit card tip.
Ok, so the food I like; it's one of the better asian eateries in the area. My favorite is the Yellow Curry Chicken, and the noodles aren't bad either.
However, I hate how they automatically charge your credit card tip. Seriously, if you go there to pick up, or order to go, AND you put "ZERO" in the tip lane, why are you charged a serving fee? At least mention that before to customers so that they don't unsuspectingly check their bank statements to find several Chai's payments that are $5 more than what they swiped for at the restaurant.
Neat and easy going atmosphere; not in the best part of the town, but then again, that could be said about most of Durham.
Come here if you really crave Thai food, but bring cash (to tip at your OWN liberty or in case you get jumped walking out of the place).
More style than substance.
I actually think it's not that bad, but I like noodles, so I'm probably biased.
I had 2 dishes. Noodles with chicken, and the other was the same dish with tofu.
While I'm not a vegetarian I'm pretty familiar about tofu, having grown up in Japan. I know when the texture is off, or if I'm being served some dry and over-fried firm tofu when I eat it. Because of this I sympathize with vegetarians in NC, because y'all are often stuck with substituting meat with tofu, and tofu in NC restaurants aren't very good.
They must all come from the same crappy firm tofu factory with overcooked skin. The fact is, tofu doesn't taste as good as animal-based protein sources, but it does not have to taste this mediocre. There're better tofus out there. Maybe some day restaurants will make their own tofu, or find a better supplier. That, and someone, someday, need to prepare meals with tofu in mind, rather than simply throwing tofu as a substitute.
Anyway, I thought the food was ok. I like the presentation, the description, even the taste. I'm not a picky eater. But everything they do left me thinking that a real chef would make the same dish better. I like their ideas, and their sales pitch, but they fail in execution.
I like the price, though. $7 or $8. Can't beat that.
Adjust your thinking.. Chai's is an easy to get to little noodle shop right near Duke. They have a range of "Asian" foods, but it behooves one to adjust their thinking before going there. It's not a Chinese restaurant. It's not a Thai restaurant. It's not a different type of Asian restaurant. Although, it does serve it's own version different Asian foods, they are likely to not be just as you remember it from your favorite Asian restaurant. Their Red Curry is good, but not like it would be prepared in an exclusively Thai restaurant. They have a good number of options and each is good in its' own right - just be sure to readjust your thinking before walking in.
Don't think Asian. A general rule of Asian cuisine is the number of countries represented in the menu is inversely proportional to the quality of the food. Chai's breaks the rule if you have the right mind set. For example I really like PF Changs, but I have to remind myself that it isn't Chinese food. Whatever you order, remind yourself the the Phad Thai is not really Thai. Once you clear that hurdle you will get a very large plate of noodles for a fairly reasonable price that is really tasty. I didn't say Authentic I said tasty. This kind of place tends to offend Asian food purists, but I left satisfied. The Salad rolls are a little spendy for what you end up getting.
Average Asian food. Pretty average lunch spot. They have a larger menu that ranges all over the place which is great. I have had a on or off experience here. The curry dishes are great. Noodle dishes...not so much. Price range hovers around $8. Can get a better lunch for cheaper...but if you are craving this sort of food, it will certainly do the trick. All in all, not bad.
Consistently great noodle shop. I have gone to Chai's many times since it opened, due to it's excellent location and consistently good food. I have never been disappointed with the service or dishes. It typically takes 5 minutes to get your food, no more than 10 if it's busy. Their tofu is really good and they will alter the spiciness of the dishes if you request it. Personal favorites include the singapore noodles, red curry, and chinese noodles.
Food Lovers Only - not whiners. To put it quite simply if not already said in title - the food is absolutely delicious. There's really no question as to whether the food is great or not - just ask the thousands of students and hospital employees that pack the place. As long as one keeps an open mind about the dining experience - and the fact that the food is a mix of authentic and FUSION food - one cannot be disappointed. The owner/chef Jimmy Chhay has never failed to put his creativity, experience and authentic touches on all of the dishes at chai's. If your simply looking for great food - and you have an open mind - chai's is the place for you.
A matter of opinion. My food was fantastic each time I have been there. Even if the food was average or not to my liking I doubt I would confront a manager. It's not shocking that would be fruitless and futile. At any rate, it's a lovely place and has some of the better fusion food in the area. I would send anyone there for an excellent meal.
Consistent disappointment. Like other reviewers, I gave chai's a couple of chances before I vowed to never return. The first time I ordered the pho, and it was basically clear broth with noodles-- NOT how it is supposed to be. When I confronted the manager about it, he simply told me that that is how they believe it should be made. . . ok. The second time I ordered the pad thai. Again, very disapointing. Its hard to really really mess up a classic like pad thai-- but theirs was too sweet and too salty (if thats possible) and the sauce was not a traditional spicy peanut sauce. I won't return. There are many worthwhile asian restuaraunts in the area, this is not one of them.
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