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Inconsistent beauty at Rama

Attractive setting and a standout dish doesn't justify Gaslamp upcharge

Place

Rama

327 Fourth Avenue, San Diego

Interior of Rama

I love Thai food almost as much as I love Mexican, but both cuisines suffer from the same problem: It’s really good and (often) really cheap, which makes it hard to justify shelling out more cash for the standard Gaslamp upcharge.

Rama on Fourth Avenue tries to justify the higher prices its downtown locale necessitates — with varying results.

The decor is beautiful and dark, with curtains in front of each booth to add a layer of romantic intimacy. It’s also good for the better-looking-than-me clientele, so they don’t notice me looking at them.

However, a restaurant makes its rep from what it puts in one’s stomach, not one’s eyes. The meal my wife and I recently had was very inconsistent.

Summer rolls at Rama

The Good: The crispy mahi mahi ($20) came served in a tangy sauce that had hints of lime and fish. It was served with mangoes, onion and mint and set off fireworks of flavor in my mouth.

The fish was delicate but held up to the pungent sauce nicely. Recommended highly by my waiter, it was the type of dish I’d come back for.

My wife and I also enjoyed the summer rolls that were made with rice paper wrappers stuffed with tofu, cabbage, bean sprouts and rice noodles. At $9, they are about three bucks more than I can get at my favorite Thai place in La Mesa, but that place serves them as a trio and Rama gives you six.

Green vegetable curry at Rama

They come with a peanut sauce that is sweeter than usual. Whether that’s good is a matter of opinion.

The OK: We ordered green curry with vegetables ($14). The verdict, according to my wife: “It’s good, but I can get a better version at half the price up at Amarin in Hillcrest.” (To be fair, it’s actually $8.99 at Amarin.)

The Bad: My wife is vegan so we thought the crispy vegetables ($9) would be the ticket. Mmm, broccoli, green beans, carrots and onions, I thought.

Crispy vegetables at Rama

But there was a problem: They weren’t crispy. They were tasty enough and we were hungry enough that we ate them, but I wasn’t impressed.

The Strange: When my wife and I saw pra ram on the menu, we both smacked our lips. It’s sauteed spinach with peanut sauce. It sounded like a simple yet elegant Thai dish.

When it came, we had a few bites and it was good, but something was missing. We called the waiter over.

Pra ram (sauteed spinach in peanut sauce) at Rama

“Is this supposed to have a peanut taste? The menu says ‘sauteed spinach with peanut sauce,’ but we’re not tasting any peanuts.”

The waiter said he’d talk with the chef and took our dish back. He came back quickly and now the dish was drenched in peanut sauce.

“Is this how the dish is supposed to be?” we asked.

“It’s actually supposed to be somewhere between where you had it and this,” the waiter said.

Oh.

We tried it, but, like I said, the peanut sauce at Rama is sweeter than other Thai places and it didn’t work soaking this dish.

Would I go back to Rama? Probably not. I get cravings for the crispy mahi mahi, but I can get Thai food that is as good, but for cheaper prices at Bamboo Thai, which is closer to my house in La Mesa.

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Crispy mahi mahi at Rama
Crispy mahi mahi at Rama
Place

Rama

327 Fourth Avenue, San Diego

Interior of Rama

I love Thai food almost as much as I love Mexican, but both cuisines suffer from the same problem: It’s really good and (often) really cheap, which makes it hard to justify shelling out more cash for the standard Gaslamp upcharge.

Rama on Fourth Avenue tries to justify the higher prices its downtown locale necessitates — with varying results.

The decor is beautiful and dark, with curtains in front of each booth to add a layer of romantic intimacy. It’s also good for the better-looking-than-me clientele, so they don’t notice me looking at them.

However, a restaurant makes its rep from what it puts in one’s stomach, not one’s eyes. The meal my wife and I recently had was very inconsistent.

Summer rolls at Rama

The Good: The crispy mahi mahi ($20) came served in a tangy sauce that had hints of lime and fish. It was served with mangoes, onion and mint and set off fireworks of flavor in my mouth.

The fish was delicate but held up to the pungent sauce nicely. Recommended highly by my waiter, it was the type of dish I’d come back for.

My wife and I also enjoyed the summer rolls that were made with rice paper wrappers stuffed with tofu, cabbage, bean sprouts and rice noodles. At $9, they are about three bucks more than I can get at my favorite Thai place in La Mesa, but that place serves them as a trio and Rama gives you six.

Green vegetable curry at Rama

They come with a peanut sauce that is sweeter than usual. Whether that’s good is a matter of opinion.

The OK: We ordered green curry with vegetables ($14). The verdict, according to my wife: “It’s good, but I can get a better version at half the price up at Amarin in Hillcrest.” (To be fair, it’s actually $8.99 at Amarin.)

The Bad: My wife is vegan so we thought the crispy vegetables ($9) would be the ticket. Mmm, broccoli, green beans, carrots and onions, I thought.

Crispy vegetables at Rama

But there was a problem: They weren’t crispy. They were tasty enough and we were hungry enough that we ate them, but I wasn’t impressed.

The Strange: When my wife and I saw pra ram on the menu, we both smacked our lips. It’s sauteed spinach with peanut sauce. It sounded like a simple yet elegant Thai dish.

When it came, we had a few bites and it was good, but something was missing. We called the waiter over.

Pra ram (sauteed spinach in peanut sauce) at Rama

“Is this supposed to have a peanut taste? The menu says ‘sauteed spinach with peanut sauce,’ but we’re not tasting any peanuts.”

The waiter said he’d talk with the chef and took our dish back. He came back quickly and now the dish was drenched in peanut sauce.

“Is this how the dish is supposed to be?” we asked.

“It’s actually supposed to be somewhere between where you had it and this,” the waiter said.

Oh.

We tried it, but, like I said, the peanut sauce at Rama is sweeter than other Thai places and it didn’t work soaking this dish.

Would I go back to Rama? Probably not. I get cravings for the crispy mahi mahi, but I can get Thai food that is as good, but for cheaper prices at Bamboo Thai, which is closer to my house in La Mesa.

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