Four Sonoma County spots for tempting Thai takeout
I know plenty of people who cook Thai food at home, and they enjoy mastering the often complex recipes. Yet, while cooking has become a larger pastime for me these past few months of isolation, I prefer to leave Thai cuisine to the experts.
Why mess with perfection, after all, when there are talents like chef-owner Tony Ounpamornchai, wowing us with modern Thai at his Sea Thai Bistro in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village? It seems counterproductive for me to stress out over making his delectable Zen soup, trying to achieve the magical balance of spicy-sweet ginger-chrysanthemum- cilantro broth dotted with shimeji mushrooms and tofu in an undercurrent of seared garlic. I can simply call in an order and grab a piping-hot bowl curbside for just $9.
Even for simpler dishes, like pumpkin curry, I’d rather not scour local Asian markets for ingredients when cafés like Lynn’s Thai in Cotati do such a delectable version with meaty, nutty Asian pumpkin; chicken; garlicky red curry paste; chunky carrot; zucchini; bell pepper and just the right amount of fragrant basil ($12.95). I order online and bam, it’s done.
Here are some of my other favorite go-tos for tempting Thai:
The faded gray temple-style eatery looks like a dive from the street, but this under-the-radar gem on Mendocino Avenue near Administration Drive is fresh, clean and elegant inside. It sure impresses too, with its solid old school cooking and boldly flavored dishes served in generous portions.
It’s a great place to explore somewhat unusual plates like pla muek yang, a Thailand street stall favorite of grilled calamari bathed in spicy chile-kissed sweet-and-sour sauce, crushed peanuts and cilantro ($13), or yum tawai, an ancient Tibetan-Burmese recipe marrying steamed mixed vegetables with an earthy red chili paste dressing finished in sweet coconut milk, peanuts and crispy roasted coconut ($10).
Toothsome kaw moodang honey-roasted pork is delicious all on its own, arranged over steamed rice. But add in crisp cucumber and savory red wine-black bean sauce, and it’s superb ($12.95). Spicy sweet-and-sour sauce makes an excellent glistening accent to khanom jeen tod num, as well, the fresh thin Thai rice noodles topped with crisp-edged fish cakes, sliced cucumber and ground peanuts ($13.95).
Note: web searches will take you to an allmenus.com site, but that menu is out of date. You can find the current menu on Facebook (facebook.com/Jhanthong-Banbua), posted on March 24.
2400 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-528-8048
Owner Mary Gillean debuted her café next to Oliver’s Market in Cotati in early 2018 and quickly welcomed crowds coming in for her classic but also periodically offbeat recipes. There are the expected bites like golden fried egg rolls stuffed with taro root, glass noodles, carrots and cabbage ($8), but also tasty adventures including a fried spinach salad piled high in crispy, feather-light tempura greens, cashew nuts, red onions, carrot ribbons and silky avocado slabs drizzled in house vinaigrette ($10).
The crunchy salad makes a great sidekick to richer dishes like the avocado salmon curry, a lovely creation of a grilled salmon fillet bathed in coconut milk green curry sauce with carrots, broccoli, bamboo shoots, eggplant, onions and Thai basil to be spooned atop a side of rice ($20). The avocado sounds like an odd extra, but the thick slabs are creamy and cuddle with the salmon.