Thai Spice's Pepper Steak (Photos: Amanda Austin)

Tucked away in a tiny, unassuming strip mall on Commercial Boulevard in Oakland Park, one would never expect what lies behind the heavily tinted windows of Thai Spice. As we crossed the threshold — my first visit — delicious aromas teased our noses. Once inside, we were transported to another world.

It’s very cozy and romantic at Thai Spice, even at lunchtime. The restaurant is a labyrinth of small rooms, with booths and tables nestled in delightful nooks. Mood lighting highlights artwork on the walls, and the blue glow from numerous aquariums provides a lovely contrast to the warm, earthy colors of walls and fabrics. I just came back from a visit to the Magic Kingdom, and the ambiance reminded me of the way you feel at Disney when you visit one of their themed restaurants. It’s very easy to forget where you are — or the time!

Thai Spice has won accolades for both its cuisine and service. In fact, it’s the only Thai restaurant in the country to receive the 2018 Five Star Diamond Award from The American Academy of Hospitality Science.

We were seated at a large booth in the rear of the restaurant and greeted by our server Rico. Thai Spice offers tempting cocktails like the Ginger Lemongrass Mojito and Mango-Tini as well as extensive lists of sake, beer, Champagne and wine by the glass or bottle. The menu is similarly extensive. While a few of the entrees on the dinner menu can be a little pricey, lunch offers an array of affordable options.

My very agreeable lunch companion and I decided to share everything. For starters, we chose the Seafood Coconut Lemongrass Soup and the Thai Stuffed Chicken Wings. The rich, creamy soup was well-stocked with plump shrimp, scallops, and calamari rings as well as delicious chunks of grouper and blue crab claw, all perfectly cooked. The tasty soup certainly ranks among the best I’ve ever had.

The Thai Stuff Chicken Wings were another treat. Deboned chicken wings are stuffed with mushrooms, chicken breast, pork loin, noodles, and Thai herbs and spices. The wings are first steamed, then lightly breaded and fried to create a unique twist on an old favorite.

For main courses, we went with the Key West Grouper Filet. The dish is prepared with your choice of sauce: curry, ginger, chili garlic, Thai garlic scampi, or sam rod. We opted for the ginger, which nicely complemented the water-chestnut-flour breading and the accompanying veggies, which included broccoli, red onion, shredded snow peas, and carrots.

We also enjoyed the Classic Pepper Steak lunch special. Tender sliced beef is stir-fried with peppers, onions, and scallions in a sweet and spicy brown sauce. The dish is elevated by the use of USDA Prime filet mignon. Both entrees rate an A+.

The kitchen staff at Thai Spice will adjust the level of spiciness in a dish to match a diner’s personal heat tolerance. We opted for medium and found it had quite a kick, so be conservative when ordering. All entrees are served with a choice of the soup du jour or a fresh garden salad of romaine, cucumber, red onion, and carrot, with ginger or peanut dressing.

Service was friendly, attentive and non-intrusive. We never had to ask for refills on non-alcoholic beverages. At the close of our meal, we were presented with an old-fashioned dessert tray with an array of choices. We snagged a delicious Key Lime cake, which was beautify garnished. The portion was, thankfully, not enormous. Just perfect to end a fabulous meal!

Thai Spice (1514 E Commercial Blvd, Oakland Park). Lunch: M–F 11am–3pm; Dinner: nightly from 5pm; Happy Hour: in the bar M–F 5–7pm. Enjoy live music every night but Sunday. Reservations recommended: 954-771-4535.