Let us get one thing straight from the beginning; the Satellite Cafe Breakfast & Thai Kitchen (SCBTK) is the best breakfast kitchen in town, period. I could write a whole review solely on this fact. I could tell you about the golden brown and fluffy pancakes or the crispy on the outside soft in the middle hash browns. I could even tell you about how their eggs have always come out perfectly to order or how the SOS is just salty enough and creamy and rich to the point of decadence but you can find all these joys out for yourselves without any explanation from a reviewer. After all, a good breakfast is an American birthright and we all know how to judge a good one from a mediocre one. This review is about the hidden treasure behind the great breakfast. This review is about the Thai Kitchen part of the SCBTK.
The SCBTK is owned and run by an American husband and a Sumatran wife team. The husband runs the front of the house while his wife runs the kitchen, which turned out to be a very smart separation of talent. The restaurant itself is very unassuming. Located on Coastal Highway it has adequate parking with over flow in the strip mall next door. The building is old and in need of repair and a cosmetic facelift. The bar, which is located in the front room, is very small in size as well as selection but they do serve Singha, a very nice crisp Thai beer which pairs perfectly with the food. The tables are plain but clean and there is a larger dining room in the rear to accommodate larger parties. The best way to describe the decor is funky with colorful works of art in the front room and a huge mural/photo on the wall in the back room which was left over from an earlier incarnation of the property. All in all it has a very comfortable and casual feeling but it is in definite need of some money to be put back into it.
The menu starts out with the usual items one might find in any Thai restaurant. The Chicken and Pork Sates are grilled and arrive juicy with a mildly spicy peanut sauce and Thai cucumber pickles. The Chicken and Vegetable Pot Stickers arrive crispy on the bottom and soft on top with a flavorful filling and are served with a sweet chili dipping sauce, both very good, but the true gems are the Mini Crab Cakes and the Steamed Mussels. These are not your usual Maryland variety crab cakes, which you can get everywhere on the shore. The Crab Cakes at SCBTK are herbaceous with a fresh zing and served with a zesty wasabi mayonnaise and pickled ginger. They may never take the place of our Maryland Crab Cake but they are well worth a try if only for a change of pace. The Steamed Mussels are in my, not so humble, opinion the best on the Eastern Shore. They are steamed in lemon grass, white wine, basil and coconut milk until they are just done. They are juicy and the sauce is worth the price itself (remember to ask for plenty of bread to mop it up with).
A few of the standouts on the main menu are two of the soups. First the Tom Yum Goong, which is probably the most famous Thai soup, is a clear shrimp broth flavored with lemongrass and galangal and it is wonderfully spicy. The second is the mild Tom Khagai which is a traditional Thai chicken soup flavored with coconut milk and galangal. I suggest you not leave without ordering either or both, if you have never had a Thai soup before they will be a revelation and if you have you will not be able to remember where you had better.
The dish that is ubiquitous with Thai Cuisine is the noodle dish Pad Thai. Here it is offered with chicken, tofu, beef or shrimp and it is rendered perfectly. In Thailand this dish is considered street food and with the advent of our own “Food Truck” explosion we have come to realize how much of a good thing that can be. SCBTK Pad Thai is a classic combination of citrus, heat, sweet and texture. It is one of those dishes that I could eat every day and never tire of. Another standout, especially for a first timer, is the Pepper Steak. Strips of flank steak are sauteed with scallions, sweet peppers, onions in a sweet brown sauce and served with jasmine rice. Try any of the curry dishes and don’t be afraid of the “heat factor”, it becomes addictive. The menu is full of interesting variations on local favorites as well as the traditional Thai so there is plenty to choose from. SCBTK also offers many selections of vegetarian dishes and will adjust the “heat” of a dish when possible.
Now I know what most of you are thinking, “There is no way this place is perfect”, well you are right, it is not. The main concern is the service which can range from friendly and just adequate to surly and horrible. At breakfast the “little things” need to be concentrated on; such as having coffee served to your table as soon as you sit down. Also placing enough utensils and napkins on the table for the number of people seated would be a nice touch. Besides these things the dining room needs to be managed, servers can take forever to approach a table and then they have a habit of forgetting items you have ordered. SCBTK is fortunate that their food is as good as it is for otherwise I don’t know if the customer could stand the aggravation.
In spite of these concerns it is a great joy to have an authentic ethnic restaurant of this quality in Ocean City. It has taken a while but a few are starting to pop up and we will explore them in future reviews but in the meantime make an effort to visit The Satellite Cafe Breakfast & Thai Kitchen. Especially on Tuesday nights when they offer a 3 course Thai dinner for $14.95, it is by far the best deal in Ocean City. Come to town and don’t forget to explore a new way to “Thai one on” in Ocean City.