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April 2017

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Nipa’s Is a Taste of Thai in Redding

Long-time Reddingites will remember Shakey's Pizza used to occupy the space on Churn Creek Road where Nipa's is now. (By the way, Shakey's is still in business. Just not here.) After it closed, a string of faux pubs and eateries came and went – M. de Joie dimly recalls one called the British Pub. Nipa's seems to have found the long-term success the others lacked.

You'd never know now that the interior was a pizzeria with a vaguely ragtimey feel. Though there's a bit of schizophrenic decor – the brick fireplace seems incongruous with the gold statues – it feels cool and comfortable inside. Out in the parking lot by a tree is a display of live birds in cages. This somehow always makes M. de Joie feel a little uneasy, though the birds seem to be well cared for and their cages kept clean.

Service is invariably friendly, smiling, cheerful and helpful.

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Calamari ($7.95)

Calamari as an appetizer ($7.95) wasn't anything out of the ordinary; it was like calamari you might get at any number of restaurants. Simply breaded and deep-fried, it was a tad floppy and a little greasy. The accompanying sauce was sugar, vinegar, and nuoc mam - not really anything to write home about.

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Tom yum kung ($10.95)

A large serving of tom yum kung ($10.95), the Thai treatment of hot and sour soup, was presented in a metal hot pot with space for a candle or other warming device, only there was no candle or heater underneath. The rich broth was flavorful with lime, thai basil, cilantro, mint, lemongrass, plenty of large shrimp, button mushrooms and tomatoes. However, there was also a minefield of inedible lemongrass stalks, galangal, tough leaves, etc., which the unwary diner will spoon up and discover too late. Be warned.

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Chicken satay

This amuse-buche of chicken satay on a stick was brought out covered in peanut sauce. It was neither hot nor cold, but was room temperature. Where had it been sitting prior to being brought out? The peanut sauce was a bit bland but the chicken was moist and flavorful.

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Pad rahm with rice ($7.95)

Pad rahm with rice ($7.95) was a melange of mixed vegetables and chicken in peanut sauce, served at medium heat as requested. The thin sauce didn't have much flavor other than a rare burst of heat or taste of peanut butter at random intervals, and the sauce refused to cling to any of the other components. Small twists of chicken were tossed in with a random assortment of vegetables. Some of the vegetables were cooked very thoroughly; others, like an unusually large chunk of yellow crookneck squash, were barely heated through.

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Green papaya salad ($7.95)

Green papaya salad ($7.95) was wonderful, a colorful toss of julienned green papaya, carrots, and green beans mixed with chopped peanuts clinging all over, along with chopped tomatoes, two prawns, and Thai basil. The only problem was that it was ordered medium heat but didn't seem to have any heat at all.

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Green curry ($7.95)

The tofu in this green curry ($7.95) was delicious, fried until browned and tender inside. Green curry sauce didn't have much taste other than a little heat. Again, the vegetables were mixed - green beans were apparently the veg of the day because they were also featured in the green papaya salad. They were mixed in along with some not-quite cooked pumpkin, red bell pepper, and not-cooked zucchini.

Nipa's is a bit of a mixed bag. When the cooking is spot-on, it's delightful, colorful, and exciting. Many of the dishes are budget-priced and healthy. But there's a bit of carelessness in the kitchen with prep and execution, so it's anyone's guess if the dish you order will be a winner or a bit of a letdown. Still, it's worth a visit if you're in the area and looking for a quiet meal that's a little different from the same-old same-old of chain restaurants in Enterprise.

Nipa's Thai Cuisine, 2600 Churn Creek Road, Redding CA 96002. (530) 221-0966. Open daily, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Cards, no checks. Beer and wine. Vegetarian and vegan options. Parking lot.

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