Just after 8 on a Wednesday night, we arrived at a jam-packed Eddie Hills Thai and Sushi. We wrote our name on a list, just like at a doctor's office but without an actual waiting room. Instead, we hovered in the middle of the dining room, because the three parties before us had taken the chairs where people sit to wait.
I had no idea that a restaurant I've driven by for years draws such a crowd. During our visit, we saw Quebecois snowbirds, senior citizen condo dwellers, young families and tables of teens sharing platters of sushi.
While there now seem to be sushi and Thai restaurants on every corner in South Florida, Eddie Hills has been doing it since 1999, when Sarasern Mongkolsindhu took over an American-style diner that operated in the spot for 50 years. Formica-topped tables and vinyl booths stand to remind diners of what was once here. Now, however, a six-seat sushi bar is at the back of the dining room and a parade of colorfully exotic dishes are delivered to eager diners.
One look at the prices on the huge menu, and you'll understand why Eddie Hills is a favorite of so many people. The only sushi roll on the menu that costs more than $10 is the $10.95 dragon roll, which is typically made with eel, but here starts with shrimp tempura. It is expertly crafted with just the right amount of rice and a perfect fan of thinly sliced avocado decorating the top.
Five nicely sized skewers of chicken satay ($7.95) are served with peanut sauce and cucumber salad. They're marinated in coconut milk and a mild curry. The result is delicious. Soft-shell crabs ($11.95) are lightly battered and cooked until crispy. Every crab is divided into two pieces before frying, making them much easier to share. A bowl of ponzu sauce is offered for dipping. Thick slices of sweet potato ($3.95) are battered with panko and deep-fried. They're wonderfully crispy and served with katsu sauce, which tastes like a sweet tamarind/Worcestershire sauce. Fried wontons ($3.95) are shrimp-filled golden-brown triangles that go nicely with the ramekin of plum sauce. They're on the Thai side of the menu.
Another part of Eddie Hills' appeal is no doubt the enormous menu — more than 150 Japanese dishes and more than 70 Thai offerings — that I couldn't begin to put a dent in. Know, however, that every Thai dish imaginable is here. Along with sushi and sashimi, the restaurant serves soba, ramen and udon noodles, as well as teriyaki and tempura. It offers a good selection of Asian beer, Changfrom Thailand, Japanese Kirin Ichiban and Chinese Tsingtao, among them.
None of the food we ordered arrived with much heat, although some dishes — marked with a chili pepper on the menu — can be ordered mild, medium, hot or Thai hot. Special connection chicken ($18.95) was one such dish, which we left up to the kitchen to prepare. It was a spice-free combination of chicken, shrimp, bell pepper, baby corn, tomato, zucchini, broccoli and tomatoes. Fresh and colorful, it's a dish I'd recommend if you're new to Thai food.
Eddie Hills' pad thai ($14.95) is a winner, loaded with beef, chicken, pork and shrimp. It's nicely garnished with chopped roasted peanuts and bean sprouts. Instead of more typical lime, the dish came with a wedge of lemon.
Service, although very friendly, can start slow. But once your order has been placed, dishes arrive at a nice pace, and are perfect for sharing. Skip dessert. Thai doughnuts ($2.95) with a dipping sauce of condensed milk and crushed peanuts needed more time in the deep fryer. Instead, order one more dish from what may be the biggest menu in South Florida.
134 N. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Beer and wine
Sound level: Bordering on noisy when full
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot