If you’re in the mood for Thai food, Sandee’s Thai Fusion in downtown Janesville is a destination to put at the top of your list.
The location, 12 S. Main St,, has teased us over the years with short stays by some good restaurants. The exposed brick and cool, dark interior now has been transformed into a calming and elegant restaurant with Asian décor that includes elephant motifs. There is an intimate bar area in the rear of the building, and glowing pendant lights create a pleasing ambience.
The restaurant is a family venture with three generations present, including an authentic Thai cook. The menu is large and varied, but don’t worry about the names of the dishes (or the pronunciations) as the descriptions are explained well, and the staff is very friendly and informative.
Sandee’s offers a full bar and an assortment of nonalcoholic beverages. Jennifer spotted ginger lemonade ($3.50) on the menu. With just the right amount of ginger, her drink was flavorful and thirst quenching.
I enjoyed the Thai iced tea ($4.50), as its sweet milkiness was a nice offset to my spicy dish. Nikki ordered a glass of the hibiscus flower ($3.50), which was a thick, sweet concoction that was perfect for sipping.
The avocado rolls (2 for $5.95) caught our eye on the appetizer menu. They are fried like egg rolls but are filled with avocado and cream cheese and come served with a sweet and sour sauce that has hints of chili peppers. We also tried the Parmesan rice balls ($7.95), which fused Thai and Italian by featuring a crisp rice exterior holding gooey cheese paired with a tomato artichoke sauce.
If you are new to Thai food, be sure to ask your server about the heat/spice level. There is always a heat scale, and you’ll enjoy the food more if you learn your comfort level.
I prefer medium heat, and our server was right on when she said the pad kra pow kai dow ($16.45) would suit me. I added shrimp to the basil vegetable dish, which also featured fresh green beans and sweet peppers.
Steering clear of anything that looked spicy, Helene chose the pad pak ruam mit ($8.95) with a small order of the Thai egg drop soup ($3.95).
The soup, with its typical clear broth, had a pronounced garlic taste that was absolutely wonderful. Her entrée was full of fresh vegetables such as baby corn, carrots, broccoli and cabbage. She added tofu ($3), which came as large, two-bite chunks that were chewy on the outside but soft on the inside. The light brown sauce, while mild, had a bit of a caramelized taste to it that gave the dish a fabulous depth. Combined with the jasmine rice, the dish was very satisfying.
Jennifer chose the pla rard prik ($18.95). A generous-sized, lightly-breaded grouper filet came with a Thai sweet garlic chili sauce that added a bit of heat to the dish and was topped with crispy basil leaves. Steamed, fresh broccoli florets and sliced carrots also came with Jennifer’s meal.
The grouper, which was bursting with flavor, was exceptional. Jennifer upgraded from jasmine rice to the house fried rice, which was packed full of hunks of scrambled eggs and cilantro for an extra $2.50. She was so impressed she vowed to order the same dish on her next visit.
Nikki tried the yum mama ($8.95), a ramen noodle salad, and then splurged by adding seafood ($5). She ordered the dish mildly spiced, and it was just right for her.
The ramen noodles were served warm, as was the seafood, but the dressing made the dish refreshing. The entire meal was savory, citrusy and featured a kick of heat. Tiny scallops and rings of squid decorated the noodles, along with bigger shrimp and hunks of crab. Cilantro, raw red onions, shredded cabbage and carrots added crunch. The combination of flavors and textures was amazing.
If you’re lucky, Sandee’s will have mango sticky rice available for dessert. My family loves it. It is light and fresh, and it’s the perfect way to finish a great meal.
With the downtown revitalization plan in full swing, Sandee’s is a fine example of outstanding food and exemplary service in the heart of Janesville.
The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.