by Nicki Wood
Menu offerings I wouldn't make at home draw me to a restaurant. Anything layered, stuffed, wrapped or folded, and anything that involves more than one cooking tasks. J. Alexander and California Pizza Kitchen both offer a multi-step Thai-influenced main dish salad, and both are on my regular rotation.
Thai Crunch salad from California Pizza Kitchen is a generous bowl of shredded cabbage, chicken, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, peanuts, wontons and vegetables in a lime-cilantro sauce with frizzled rice noodles.
J. Alexander's Thai Kai salad is shredded greens, paper-thin (well, business card-stock paper thin) slices of pressed chicken breast and little wonton crunchies in a cilantro vinaigrette with a dose of Thai peanut sauce (that tastes strongly of teriyaki) (which is Chinese). It's tall, piled up attractively in the bowl.
A salad is about contrasting flavors a textures, and Thai food is about contrasting flavors and textures. There's more work put into the CPK salad -- it's the kind of meal you'd attempt at home once, thinking bagged slaw mix would do the job. An hour into it with every pan and bowl dirty, you'd conclude that it's worth paying for because the prep work is a team effort.
CPK's Thai Crunch salad leaves the stadium victorious.