Gindi Thai & Japanese Diner
Rating:Three forks out of four
Where: 7010 W. 21st St., 316-729-5855
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Type of food: Sushi, Thai, Japanese
Alcohol: No, but they're hoping to add it.
Reservations: Not accepted
And the award for the best transformation of an out-of-business burger joint goes to Gindi Thai & Japanese Diner, a new restaurant that's giving the west side some serious ethnic food credibility.
The sit-down restaurant (with a drive-through!) opened in January at 7010 W. 21st St., in the space that once housed Back Yard Burgers.
Gindi, which means "eat well" in Thai, is owned by Lou Kumgool, who recently moved to Wichita from the St. Louis area, where her family runs a Japanese steak house.
ON THE MENU: The large menu features a variety of Thai and Japanese favorites, from pad Thai to curry dishes to fresh sushi.
It also includes several inventive salads, soups, fried rice, noodle and stir-fry dishes.
DON'T-MISS DISHES: A tour through the various sections of Gindi's menu left us hungry for more. Not because the dishes weren't satisfying but because they were each so unusual, fresh and well-prepared.
Among the best was the yellow curry, a subtly but expertly flavored concoction of coconut milk broth floating with potatoes, onions, carrots and choice of protein. (We selected shrimp.)
Though the potatoes were a tad al dente, the shrimp were plump and plentifu l and the rich broth was heavenly when spooned over the rice served on the side. The dish cost $9.25 with shrimp though was less expensive when served with beef or chicken.
We also tried the pad Thai ($6.95 with chicken). It was a bit sweeter than other pad Thai dishes served locally but was a quality rendition of the famous Thai dish made with rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, onion and ground peanuts.
The drunken noodles ($6.95 with chicken) -advertised as "the best in town" - also were good. The unique dish consisted of wide rice noodles topped with basil leaves, carrots, garlicky bell peppers and chili peppers. Though the noodles had a bit of an unappetizing appearance (truly drunken on the brown sauce in the bowl) the flavor was spot-on and got better with every bite.
We also liked the sushi, and the two rolls we ordered were beautifully presented in a snake-like column on a brightly colored plate. Our favorite from the sushi menu, which consists mostly of maki rolls, was a super tuna roll ($9.50 for eight pieces), stuffed with tuna, white tuna and cucumber then topped with spicy tuna.
AMBIENCE: Kumgool has done a nice job of transforming the former fast-food place into a cozy sit-down restaurant. She kept the booths but added an attractive tile floor, pendant lights and other decorative touches. Customers also can watch the sushi being freshly prepared at the sushi bar up front.
PRICE RANGE: Entrees are $5.95 to $11.50. Sushi starts at $5.50 for a simple eight-piece roll and goes up to $12.50 for a more complex one.
SERVICE: It appeared that only one waitress was serving the busy dining room when we visited, but she somehow managed to keep up. Our only complaint was that our sushi, which we intended as an appetizer, did not arrive until after our hot entrees had. But that's a pretty common occurrence in family-run sushi places.