Thai Chili Asian Grill takes you by surprise. Tucked into a strip of shops by Walmart on Coursey Boulevard, near Hickory Ridge, the small eatery presents an amazing variety of Asian dishes from Thailand, China and Vietnam. It’s a pleasant change from the usual fast-food express that turns out only one style of food with little change in the usual offerings created for American tastes.

First-time visitors should be prepared, and take the word “chili” in the cafe’s name seriously. The entwined peppers on the printed menu are more than a hint. Many of the dishes at Thai Chili are highly seasoned with various curry and peppers. Hot, spicy items listed on the menu are marked with a tiny pepper. There are a number of milder dishes available, but anyone who prefers really mild food should ask which dishes are truly bland with little or no pepper in the seasoning.

The dishes we selected were tantalizing and delicious. The balance of spices used in Thai cooking is especially pleasing with pungent and aromatic herbs carefully balanced.

For appetizers, we started with the Thai spring rolls ($3.25), which come two to an order. Served cold, the large rolls were created with a thin rice paper filled with shrimp, finely chopped lettuce and mint along with vermicelli noodles. The excellent, rolls were abundantly stuffed with ingredients and came with a succulent and sweet Thai caramel-colored peanut sauce topped with a scattering of chopped peanuts. Another appetizer, traditional satay chicken ($4.95) featured four lightly-seasoned chicken breast strips grilled until golden. They were served with a creamy peanut sauce, with just a hint of pepper.

Be sure to take your time choosing from the list of main courses. Main course lunch meals cost about $2.25 less than dinner prices. They are served with fried rice and an egg roll. At dinner, the main course portions are large, and they can easily serve two. They come with a generous helping of tender steamed rice.

The Thai curry lime beef ($8.95) combined thin slices of stir-fried beef blended with sautéed slices of green bell pepper and onion in a medium-hot yellow curry sauce and enhanced with lime juice. The addition of lime cuts the pungent curry sauce and adds a refreshing taste to the dish. We ordered the pineapple curry ($8.50) thinking it would be mild since the menu said it featured a “delicate” sauce. The sauce is indeed delicate with a wonderful combination of fragrant spices including turmeric and lemongrass. It also was enhanced with red pepper that left a hot “bite” with each swallow. However, the sweet pineapple chunks cut some of the heat and added an exotic touch to the meal.

Especially delicious was a vegetarian dish, Thai eggplant ($7.95). This combination of breaded eggplant sautéed with green pepper, onion, basil and a hint of mint was accented with a touch of brown sugar and just enough pepper to add a little tang to the dish. The King Pao triple delight ($10.95), a nod to Chinese cooking, is one of the best “triple” combinations we’ve found in Baton Rouge. Stir-fried portions of beef, chicken and medium shrimp along with cubes of zucchini, carrots and green pepper and peanuts in a sweetened brown sauce were spiced with several small Szechuan peppers.

Steamed rice served with all of the main courses was appropriately sticky to absorb the sauces and very generous. We also enjoyed the little something extra, a small bowl of cold cucumber salad that added a cooling effect to the hot and spicy dishes.

Since we couldn’t sample everything on the menu, we plan to return to try such items as sizzling rice soup, lemon grass chicken, Mongolian pork and Vietnamese rice noodle bowl. The café offers two desserts, cheesecake and strawberry cheesecake, $2.79 each. Soft drinks and iced tea are $1. There’s also hot tea, $1.50, and Thai tea, $2.

There’s no kids’ menu, but you might start with something simple such as fried rice and grilled chicken with the satay sauce served on the side. Also, since a number of dishes are served with peanuts or peanut sauce, be sure to ask about all ingredients in any specific dish if anyone in your party is allergic to peanuts.

While this is a small operation, the staff was friendly and accommodating. Delivery service is available within a four-mile distance with a minimum order of $13.