Thai art and elephant carvings spice up the experience at Delray’s Chaiyo Thai Bistro

Bright red interior and That art provide decor

Chaiyo is a pretty place and the food is nicely plated, but for those seeking authentic Thai flavors this may not be the place

Chaiyo Thai Bistro, in the Bed Bath & Beyond shopping center in western Delray Beach, specializes in Thai-Japanese food —with the emphasis on bland. Perhaps that’s why it enjoys such popularity with the local senior citizenry.

Despite its strip mall location, it’s a pretty place inside. For the past two years Chaiyo has occupied an in-line storefront that formerly was the home of a short-lived Italian eatery, Saltimbocca. Chaiyo’s former home, a stand-along building in the same center, has since been razed and replaced by a new CVS.

Now, there’s Thai art along the mostly bright-red walls, elephant carvings everywhere and a hip, industrial black ceiling. That ceiling, however, makes Chaiyo noisy when it is crowded.

Service is pleasant, especially if you’re recognized as a regular, and solicitous until your entrée is delivered. After that you’ll be craning your neck searching for your server and waving your arms trying to get the attention of someone to refill your water glass or for your check.

Alas, the looks are better than the food. I’ve ordered from both the Thai and sushi menus, only to be disappointed, more so by the Thai offerings than the sushi, which given the restaurant’s Thai ownership is surprising.

The prettily plated Thai cuisine here, typically spicy in an authentic Thai venue, is anything but. There is nothing on the menu indicating the level of spiciness and no one asks if you want your food spicy. Nevertheless, I always specify “Thai spicy.”  I want to singe my mouth and for tears to flow from my eyes. It doesn’t happen here, no matter how hard I tried. I’ve sent dishes back for more heat, but to no avail. On occasion servers have brought out small plates of seasonings to sprinkle on my dish, but that never will generate the same flavors as when the food is cooked in them (it’s like adding salt after your food comes from the kitchen). FYI, my mother-in-law loves the sweet and sour chicken and the wait staff knows it.

Honey duck

Sweet and sour chicken

Honey duck, deep fried and topped with a sticky sauce, has appeal to those with a sweet tooth. And there always seem to be specials based on either duck or lobster on the chalkboard at the door.

Be that as it may, the soups—I’ve had both the Tom Yum, a hot and sour soup with shrimp, fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, lemon grass, thai chili and cilantro, and the classic coconut-milk-based Tom Kha Gai, the appetizers, and the entrees that I’ve ordered, seem as if have been prepared for those who no longer have their taste buds, or perhaps, have never eaten genuine Thai cuisine. I’ve tried som tom papaya salad; nam sod, a dish of ground chicken, peanuts, onions, scallions and chilis with lime juice; and various curries, green, red yellow and massamam. They’re merely sustenance with exotic names.

Nam Sod

Sushi-Sashimi combination plat

Sushi, too, is merely satisfactory, lacking the vivacity found in true sushi eateries. There’s the usual long list of specialty rolls, but as a purist I tend to go with a sushi and sashimi. On my last visit, a cocktail glass filled with ceviche accompanied the slabs of fish and rice on my combo plate. You’ll also get either a bowl of watery miso soup ahead of that combo plate, or a bowl of iceberg lettuce with carrot ginger dressing. They merely fill you up.

I first visited Chaiyo some 14 years ago at the behest of my now nonagenarian mother-in-law. Over the years it’s become among her favorite places and I can appreciate that. It’s customers like her that fill then ables here.

Chaiyo’s name has two possible origins. It’s a district in the eastern part of Any Thong Province in Thailand; it’s also the Thai word for “hooray” or “cheers.” Despite numerous visit, there’ll be no cheers from this diner.

Chaiyo Thai Bistro

14812 S Military Trail, Delray Beach, FL 33484

(561) 499-8572

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