PARSIPPANY — Imagine, if you will, a meal that will stimulate all your taste sensations, consisting of substantial food that is distinct with its fresh, strong, diverse flavors, and is healthy, hearty, tasty, and robust? Sounds surprisingly good, doesn’t it? If that piques your interest, you might just want to plan a visit to Up Thai, located in a relatively small strip mall right on Tabor Road in (Parsippany) Morris Plains.
Thai food with its authentic balance of sweet, bitter, sour, creamy, spicy, and salty flavors, along with generous use of fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices makes this cuisine something special, that will surely wake up your palate and provide a wonderful dining experience. In general, this cuisine which is associated with being hot and spicy can be easily modified to accommodate your personal heat level so you can still enjoy a wide variety of dishes. As for me, I love spicy, hot food. Each dish, as is customary in Thai tradition, is carefully plated to be as visually attractive and enticing as possible. That along with all those aromatic herbs, spices, sauces, as well as many other exotic ingredients common to this cuisine is what I am talking about when I referred earlier to food to stimulate your senses.
Thai cuisine is essentially a marriage of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai. Going back to the 13th Century, Thailand’s complex cuisine was heavily influenced by many surrounding countries, including China (noodles and wok), India (spices and flavors), Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma, and Malaysia. Today Thai cooking is considered one of the fastest-growing and most popular cuisines in the world.
Up Thai, which opened in June of 2019, is another one of those small storefront places, located on the side of a small strip mall off Tabor Road. It may have only 9 or 10 tables, but it certainly packs a punch. Cozy, comfortable, inviting, impeccably clean, and welcoming, it is a great place for a relaxing lunch or dinner. It is also great for takeout, which was obvious by the ongoing stream of customers coming in to pick up their orders throughout the entire time I was there. The interior, nicely lit by the large storefront window, is nicely decorated with warm, rustic-looking wood paneling covering the walls, tile floors, attractive Thai-related paintings adorning the walls, along with Asian-style lanterns overhanging the wooden tables which are placed along the walls. A good part of the interior is comprised of a customer counter outside the kitchen area to accommodate those outgoing orders.
The service is attentive, friendly, and prompt. Our affable hostess, Tanya Padilla, could not have been more accommodating, cordial, and helpful. Our waitress was equally pleasant and made sure to check on our table throughout the meal, in addition to keeping our water glasses topped off, which can come in handy as you dig into those no joke Thai chili dishes. Important note: they will prepare your dish to suit your heat level, even to the point there is no spicy heat at all, so do not worry about those stories you have heard about “make your head explode” spicy food. Personally, I always prefer to kick my food up a bit with a little extra heat, but that is just me.
I brought my sister-in-law along since she eats Thai cuisine two or three times a week and absolutely loves it. I wanted to get her insight as a Thai enthusiast. For appetizers We started with Steamed Chicken Dumplings, which were served with a garlic soy sauce; Satay, savory chicken marinated in yellow curry powder and coconut milk, which came with a memorable homemade peanut sauce, as well as a cucumber vinaigrette dipping sauce; and Curry Puffs, fried puff pastry stuffed with minced chicken, potato, caramelized onion, carrot, and yellow curry, which was served with cucumber relish. Everything was savory, fresh, and delicious, plus as we were about to find out, Up Thai is very generous with its portion sizes. Quite frankly, these three appetizers were a fantastic meal in themselves.
The menu is enticing and extensive with one delicious choice after another. I was tempted by many of those choices, with plenty of meat, chicken, fish, and vegetable selections to choose from, but I decided to go with Thai’s most popular dish, their Authentic Old School Pad Thai. I understand there are numerous ways to make Pad Thai in Thailand, but it would be hard to beat Up Thai’s version of this delectable noodle dish. Featuring stir-fried thin rice noodles, mixed with a tangy tamarind sauce, combined with egg, tofu, scallion, bean sprouts, and ground peanut, with my choice of beef (you can choose chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu).
This was one rich and flavorful entree, not spicy, and a great introduction if you are new to Thai cuisine. Of course, you know I had to try a variety of dishes, so I also ordered Drunken Noodles; stir-fried flat noodles, with chicken, shrimp, egg, fresh chili, garlic, onion, carrot, pepper, tomato, and Thai basil. This is listed as a spicy dish, and I requested it medium hot as I was not familiar with the heat level at Up Thai. The dish did possess a nice palatable kick and had a reasonable heat level to it (as I said I do like spicy food) and would in all probability suit most diners who prefer that bit of heat. Again, the dish was delicious, satisfying, and filling.
We also split the Spicy Chili Shrimp; crispy large-sized fried shrimp topped with chili sauce, garlic, lemongrass, onion, pepper, tamarind juice, and Thai basil. The shrimp were crisp, juicy, and blended harmoniously with the tangy spicy chili sauce to create a taste sensation. It came with a side of Jasmine rice, which served as a great compliment to the spiciness of the dish. This was one of those “eyes bigger than your stomach” situations, but everything was so tasty you did not want to stop. By the way, did I mention that Up Thai is a BYOB restaurant? I brought along some cold Yanjing beer, which turned out to be a good call.
By now, a reasonable person would have been done, but I had to try Up Thai’s desserts. We split the Black Sticky Rice with Fresh Mangos and their Banana Nutella Cake. Fresh, new, decadent tastes I have not had before, but I would not hesitate to order either one of them again. Not too sweet and just the right ending to a very flavorful meal.
If you are new to Thai food, Up Thai I would highly recommend this restaurant if you were looking for something different, a bit exotic, and something very affordable. If you are already a fan of Thai food, I feel confident you will be adding Up Thai is one of your go-to places. So, hop on board for an exciting gastronomical adventure, and if you have not done so yet, give Thai a try. I really think you will become a fan.
I almost forgot, my Thai loving sister-in-law thought it was fantastic. Two thumbs up!!
Aroy mak, khop khun khap!
Health & Safety Measures: BYOB, Delivery, Curbside Pickup, Takeout, Inside Dining, Outdoor Seating, Private Dining, Off-Street Parking Lot. Closed Mondays.
Up Thai Restaurant is located at 981 Tabor Road, Morris Plains, NJ 07950. (973) 998-8536; www.upthainj.com.