By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
So if you're as picky as I am, the way to order is via the printed menu. Asian chicken-noodle soup, a kind of won ton soup with a Thai coriander flavor, nicely counters that mall chill you may have taken if you spent your table-waiting time browsing the boutiques. You can get the same chicken dumplings that were in the soup as pan-seared pot-stickers, though out of the broth they seemed inappropriately bland and lukewarm to boot. Don't bother with the vegetable spring roll appetizer, which was as greasy as an egg roll you'd get from the food court.
If the restaurant is as busy for you as it was for me, stick to the Plum Crazy Chicken as a starter. Though the menu doesn't say so, this crispy rice noodle dish, tossed with hunks of chicken, crushed peanuts, and scallions, is served at room temperature, which means that no matter how overwhelmed your server is, it'll be correct. Because the plum sauce that united it was not overly sweet, the whole thing seemed a pleasant take on Thai mee krob.
Main courses, on the whole, were an improvement over the appetizers. I wouldn't expect realistic spicing in terms of chili peppers, but I would anticipate some reliability here. Bangkok noodles, though not as spicy as billed, were flavorful in a red curry sauce, accented by a good assortment of shrimp, green beans, bamboo shoots, and flavorful basil. Sweet-and-sour chicken wasn't the gloppy Cantonese version we've come to expect but crunchy, fried nuggets of chicken spiked with green and red peppers, onions, carrots, and a hint of pineapple. Our favorite, Mongolian beef, featured shaved pieces of steak sautéed with scallions and red peppers; the meat was then layered over crispy glass noodles, which provided some intriguing and necessary textural contrasts.
Stir Crazy acquitted itself especially well with one of the specials that evening, salmon in wasabi sauce. The pan-seared salmon was neither fishy nor dry and had been glazed with a pungent, mustardy sauce. The fillet was accompanied by aromatic jasmine rice and wok-tossed garlic spinach, a pile of emerald leaves that can also be ordered as a side dish. Unlike some of the other dishes, the salmon can be awkward to parcel out, but go ahead and reach for a small plate (there's a stack of them in the center of the table, next to a jar filled with chopsticks) and try anyway.
You could also attempt dessert, since the elaborate concoctions like banana won tons filled with white chocolate and topped with caramel sauce or key lime pie made with a fortune cookie crust sound so tempting. However, we skipped the third course, given that the entire meal process had already taken about three hours (including the wait). Wash the sweets down with a mango spritzer or a Thai Chi (Thai iced coffee with a slug of vodka and coffee liqueur). One thing is guaranteed: You won't come away from Stir Crazy enlightened on the subject of Asian food, which is all about subtlety. The place has already succumbed to the American way of doing everything bigger, better, and brighter, and by doing so has failed to some degree in its concept. But at least you'll leave a bit more stimulated than if you'd gone to the food court.