Despite the flowery name, Thai Garden looks pretty much the same as the Vietnamese restaurant that preceded it in its small space at the edge of Brooklineís Coolidge Corner: pleasant but plain. As for the menu, well, itís got vegetables on it, sure enough, but no more than do Thai restaurants without pastoral monikers.
That said, Thai Garden does a nice job. First off, owner Lisa Chin and staff make a mean curry. Far too often, curry sauces act like quicksand, sucking into oblivion the ingredients theyíre supposed to enhance. Not so here. In the red curry with tofu ($7.95), for instance, the peppers, bamboo shoots, and string beans retain their snap, the basil its bloom, the tofu its strength of character. (In addition to red, there are also yellow and masaman curries, and all three are available with your choice of meat or seafood, as well as vegetarian-style.) Second ó for those who canít face the thought of a Thai meal without it ó the pad Thai here is bona fide, especially the crispy version ($8.75), which is neither too greasy nor too sweet, but nicely balanced. Third, the yum nua ($7.50) is worth a try for its intriguing twist on the standard beef salad, namely the addition of mushrooms and a tangy lemon dressing rather than the usual lime.
Of course, there are a couple of disappointments, the biggest being the Dancing Squid ($11.50), which not only doesnít dance but doesnít even get off the couch. The moral of the story is, donít believe every * you see; if you want heat, speak up, regardless of the number of spice icons. Or maybe the moral of the story is, if itís got a poetic name, itís probably a misnomer; buyer beware.
Thai Garden, located at 1393 Beacon Street, in Brookline, is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. Call (617) 730-3888/3830.