Meun Fan Thai Cafe is a welcome deviation from the endless cycle of Chinese take-out and sushi. Thai food, when done well, is a treat. It’s a furious blend of spice and mint Thai leaves you full but also somewhat refreshed afterwards. Compare that to the bloated feeling of Panda Express and you’ll come to appreciate Meun Fan’s offerings.
The restaurant was clean and well-kept. Instead of attempting to adhere to any sort of millennial-oriented design, it instead favored a simple and welcoming interior with warm yellow walls bedecked with paintings. This works to Meun Fan’s advantage, as it makes it the perfect place to either head out to after a day of work, go on a date, or even take out the family.
Thankfully, its interior is not just for show. You wouldn’t even realize that the restaurant was new by how efficient everyone was. Being quick and attentive, the staff brought out the food within ten minutes.
Meun Fan boasts a wide and varied selection, counting favorites such as pad thai and yellow curry among its ranks. There are rice dishes, soups, and curries; most of them can be prepared with either beef, chicken, pork, or even a vegetarian option. Spice levels can also be adjusted. There are also lunch specials available from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and take-out orders can be placed in advance.
A trip to Meun Fan allowed an indulgence in a personal favorite: drunken noodles. It’s a stir fry dish consisting of fat rice noodles cooked with garlic, bell peppers, onions, basil, and chili. It’s a satisfying dish that basically brings together all that’s good about Thai cuisine: a well balanced blend of savory with chili, while still maintaining a sense of freshness due to the basil. Thai spice isn’t a slow-burn kind of thing like many of the more diehard foodies seek. It’s more like a jolt that gets your senses going, preparing your palette for the dish as a whole. Everything in it is complementary, with no ingredient feeling out of place.
Speaking of complementary, try the Thai iced coffee. Similar to the Vietnamese ca phe sua da, expect a tall glass filled with ice and strong coffee and topped off with a layer of sweetened condensed milk. Mix it in and you’re all set. Thai iced coffee feels a lot stronger and more full bodied than the familiar arabica beans. As you drink it, a dry taste can be sensed that is refreshing as the drink goes down with no aftertaste. It is a clean and refreshing concoction.
With all the praise I’ve been giving out, there has to be just a little bit of critique. One point of contention is that Meun Fan can get a little pricey. While the average dish hovering around the 10-11 dollar range may be a little off putting to some, that’s about the norm for Thai restaurants. Still, due to the quality of the meal and the excellent service, the cost is worth it. Another thing is that, like Nikka Ramen, it’s all the way down in Calle Real. This is fine if you have a friend with a car or don’t mind taking the bus, but the distance can be a little frustrating. Also, there is the fact that from 3:00-5:00 p.m. it is closed. That’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but definitely something to plan around.
Meun Fan has a great balance between the quality of food and the quality of its service. It is definitely a relaxing restaurant environment. Unlike a lot of restaurants these days that attempt to be big on substance and spectacle, Meun Fan’s simplicity is refreshing: it has good food and a service done efficiently at a reasonable price. College is a time for exploration and trying new things, so go try Meun Fan Thai Cafe.
Meun Fan Thai Cafe can be found at 5664 Calle Real, Goleta. Open until 9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday with a closed period from 3:00-5:00 p.m.