Aiyara Thai Cafe
1010 Harlow Road
Springfield, OR 97477
(541) 736-8306

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Eugenified.com rating: 1 vote, average: 2.50 out of 51 vote, average: 2.50 out of 51 vote, average: 2.50 out of 51 vote, average: 2.50 out of 51 vote, average: 2.50 out of 5

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As you may already know, Eugene is not the home of great Thai food. Acceptable, maybe, but not great. So I was fairly skeptical when I heard good things about Aiyara Thai Cafe in Springfield. Of course, our neighbors to the east (Springtucky a.k.a. Sprangfield) are not well known for their sophisticated tastes in world cuisines, so that could be the explanation for the overly optimistic reviews. But the question still remained, could it measure up to the more selective standards of Eugenifites?

Well, the answer is now 100% clear: yes and no. As it turns out, Aiyara appears to suffer from a serious case of bipolar disorder. Or maybe it’s schizophrenia? (Does schizophrenia still exist? Ask your secret friend what he thinks on this issue). Some of their dishes are really good, some are so so, and others are downright depressing (like your secret friend when he refuses to reveal himself to anyone else). In other words, Aiyara Thai is really a hit or miss affair. Some examples of said hits and Mrs. (damn spellchecker!) are as follows:

-Panang Curry was excellent. Probably the best in the Eugene/Sprangfield area. The secret was its very nicely balanced and complex sauce. Serving size was ok, but not great. It comes with rice on the side for Sprangfield intelligentsia that don’t understand the concept of shared meals.

-Thai Iced Tea, on the other hand, was less than excellent, i.e. it sucketh. First of all, it had a weird cardamon taste which I have never tasted in Thai iced tea anywhere in the world. Not bad, but slightly reminiscent of a bathroom air freshener in India. The big problem is that the tea flavor, assuming there was any there, was buried by a plethora of Lucite Latex Satin Finish super creamy milk. End result, it was more akin to drinking an ice cold glass of orange-tinted melted vanilla ice cream (without the vanilla). If they called it “Orange Tinted Melted Vanilla Ice Cream” on the menu, I might have been less disappointed. On the other hand, the cheesy plastic “glass” in which it was served probably would have annoyed me no matter what the drink was named.

-Spicy Fried Rice: After the Thai iced tea, I was pinching up my face in a painful (to others) expression of discontent (trust me, you never want to see this ugly face), but this spicy fried rice wiped that look right off. Shockingly, they actually made it spicy as I requested, plus the veggies were crisp and tasty. Most importantly, it was not too oily (the usual problem with restaurant-prepared fried rice). Easily the second best dish on the table after the Panang Curry.

Tom Kha Gai (Spicy Coconut Chicken Soup): Sorta an unrefined, homestyle version of this classic Thai soup. It seemed to be more “assembled” than “cooked”. Like the Thai iced tea, it was WAY too milky and seemed to have completely escaped the clutches of the head spice-adder in the kitchen. Thusly bland and milky, it would have been great with some Rice Krispies, but as a standalone Thai soup, it was found to be sorely lacking. Tom Kha Gai, I banish you to heck. Be gone!

Pad Thai: Not quite “there”. Was it too sweet or too sour or what? I could not really tell you. I think it was all of those things together. Or maybe it was lacking something? At least it came with a genuine lime for squeezing over the top. That’s better than even Ta Ra Rin, the current Thai food champ in Eugene. Unfortunately, one poor little lonely lime was not enough to overcome the “off” taste of this classic dish at Aiyara.

Fish Cakes: Word has it, they taste like a block of salt dipped in tuna water. I did not personally try them (In my opinion, the words fish and cake should never be used side by side in any sentence), but I got this report from a reliable fellow spy diner.

Non-food Issues:

Decor: Well, it’s clean. Sorta like a cafeteria that was repainted with yellow paint and had some Thai-ish stuff stuck up on the walls. About as much Thai atmosphere as…well…a cafeteria painted yellow with some Thai-ish stuff stuck up on the walls. Still, gotta give them credit for keeping it nearly spotless. Compare and contrast with the hippie restaurants in Eugene that actually seem proud of their “natural” grungy-grimy facilities.

Waitress: Call me a racist, but a young blond caucasian teenager who can not pronounce the names of the dishes is not exactly the most confidence-inspiring arrangement. Hardworking, friendly, and easy on the eyes, but definitely lacking in the Thai version of je ne sais what.

Spicy Factor: I command you to order all your food at “Level 5” spicy, which is their maximum. You will then receive your dishes somewhere between level 1 and level 5. It appears to be random. Still, I guess if I had not specified level 5, everything would have been a level 1, and that would not have been good news at all.

Price/Value: Oddly enough, despite all of the comments on the internet, this place is a little overpriced considering the size of the portions and the less than so so atmosphere. I suppose if you order a single lunch special set, it might seem reasonably priced, but any sort of decent full meal is unreasonably costly…plus tip. Pretty much everything is $9 (unless you go for something with seafood which costs $13) which sounds cheapish. But for a nice meal, two people will need at least a soup, two main dishes, and a noodle dish. That’s $36 already. Adding on two Thai Iced Teas for $5 and a 15% tip brings the grand total to $47. Any way you measure it, $23.50 per person for this place is NOT a good deal.

Summary: I’m torn. I’d like to go back for the Panang Curry and Spicy Fried Rice. Who knows…maybe they have one or two other good dishes? But it’s still annoying to have to skip classics like Thai Iced Tea and Pad Thai. Hmmmm…I am going to say 2.5 stars for now, and I will add another half star if I ever go back and find two other good dishes.

Eugenified.com rating: 1 vote, average: 2.50 out of 51 vote, average: 2.50 out of 51 vote, average: 2.50 out of 51 vote, average: 2.50 out of 51 vote, average: 2.50 out of 5

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