What: The tom yum gai with chicken

Where: Uncle Chai Thailand Street Food, in The Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage

How much: $7

Contact: 760-699-8884; www.unclecthailandstreetfood.com

Why: It’s delicious, pure and simple.

When I walked into Uncle Chai Thailand Street Food to meet my colleague Matt for lunch, my heart sunk.

It was a little after noon, and there was just one other table occupied. This interior restaurant space in The Atrium has developed a reputation, of sorts, as a place where restaurants open—and then promptly die. There’s not a lot of foot traffic inside this little mall, and there’s even less since CVRep moved to its permanent playhouse in Cathedral City several years ago.

After I was seated, however, the restaurant slowly began to fill—and by the time Matt and I were finished with our meal, Uncle Chai was hosting a decidedly decent-sized lunch crowd, especially for a Monday in June.

Two things give me hope that Uncle Chai will succeed here where others haven’t. One: This is not Uncle Chai’s first time at the figurative rodeo. This is the second Uncle Chai location; the first one opened in San Diego in early 2021. Two: All of the food Matt and I ordered was pretty gosh-darned good.

Uncle Chai’s menu is more limited than those at some other Thai joints—there are about a dozen and a half entrée offerings, along with a couple of salads, a couple of soups, four appetizers and one dessert—but the kitchen seems to be emphasizing quality over quantity.

The highlight of our meals was the tom yum gai soup with chicken, a hot-and-sour concoction featuring lemongrass, tomatoes, mushrooms, cilantro and lime leaves. Tom yum gai has long been a favorite of mine. (I’ve endorsed it at two other restaurants as well.) It’s fairly easy to make a decent version, but rather difficult to make an excellent one—and Uncle Chai’s version is excellent indeed.

Try it out—and help Uncle Chai break the figurative Atrium curse.

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...

2 replies on “The Indy Endorsement: The Tom Yum Gai With Chicken at Uncle Chai”

  1. But the restaurant is overheated, dreary, and uninviting. . . So we do carry out. I’m not going to eat off of a shiny, plastic tablecloth. . I’m Not at grandmas kitchen table.

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