Esan Thai is one of Bloomington's many Thai restaurants. It doesn't measure up to the awesomeness of Little Tibet, but Esan Thai has several dishes I really like. Esan is a bit expensive, in an overpriced kind of way. I think I would be more enthusiastic with it if the prices were lower, it would feel like a better deal.
My favorite entree is the Khai Yang Esan, also known as lunch special SL4. It's basically a grilled chicken breast with stir fried veggies. The vegetables are always really well cooked, crisp and fresh, but the chicken can be inconsistent. Sometimes it's under-seasoned or dried out. And it's $9.50 at lunch! Way more expensive then lunch at Little Tibet or Shanti, and you don't even get soup or salad. My regular lunch date, Katy, usually gets the Pad Prik. It's veggies and a protein, Katy usually gets tofu, stir fried in a sweet, garlicky basil sauce. It's quite yummy, but still $8.95 for a lunch portion. Granted, portions are pretty large at lunch time, but I would much rather have a slightly smaller meal, along with a smaller price.
Other Esan Thai entrees I've tried include the Aey’s Esan Noodles. I don't know what I was expecting exactly, but what I got was ground chicken over rice noodles in a hot and sour broth. It had the sour / salty / spicy / sweet thing going on like Pad Thai. It was good, and probably more traditional than what I normally order. I think it would be an especially nice winter meal, unfortunately I ordered it in the middle of August. I've also tried the Pad Thai and Cashew chicken. Both were good but not particularly memorable. I was disappointed with the Kang Dang, Esan's red curry. It just couldn't live up to the perfection of Little Tibet's red curry. Mostly I wasn't a fan of the mushy Thai eggplant and overwhelming basil in the dish.
As for appetizers, Katy and I love the Crispy Wontons. They're stuffed with ground chicken and pork and served with a tasty sweet chili sauce. The dipping sauce totally makes it awesome. Esan has both Satay and Grilled Skewers on the menu, both with the choice of chicken, beef or pork and I'm not really clear on the difference between the two. They're both grilled meat served with peanut sauce and cucumber salad. We've had the Grilled Chicken Skewers, and they were quite tasty, though not as good as Little Tibet's satay.
So check out Esan Thai if you're in the mood for Thai and don't mind the prices. Note that lunch specials aren't served on Saturday, so you'll have to pay dinner prices. There are a lot more options on the dinner menu, tons of curry, noodle, and stir fried dishes. With such a vast menu there could be some super awesome entrees that I've never tried, so check it out yourself.
221 E Kirkwood Ave # D
Bloomington, IN 47408
Website + Menu