As they worked with intense, iconic ingredients such as lemongrass and curry, the cooks at Thai of Wedgwood found that they never needed to turn to MSG for help. So, they cut the artificial enhancer out of their cuisine completely, relying instead on age-old recipes and nature's own flavor powerhouses. They add sugary pop to their sweet and sour chicken with real pineapple, or spice up salmon with red curry and coconut milk. Their cuisine shows up at tables in a dining room rife with personal touches of Thailand, from the dressing screen which hides a hallway to the wall hangings that measure how much the nation has grown since last school year.
Recipes made popular by street food vendors in Bangkok populate the menu at Iyara Thai Cuisine. Kick off the culinary expedition with chicken satay—a grilled-meat popsicle marinated in a blend of herbs and spices ($7)—before letting your spoon mingle with a gaggle of chicken on the bone, shallots, and crispy egg noodles bathing in the spicy coconut milk of the khao soi kai ($10). Patrons may partake in a game of hide-and-seek with the pla yum, a deep-fried rainbow trout buried beneath shredded mango, cabbage, carrots, peanuts, ginger, lemongrass, lime juice, and cilantro ($12), or chase fried wide rice noodles around a plate of pad see-ewe, dodging patches of chinese broccoli and cooling off in a river of sweet sauce (chicken, pork, or tofu, $9; beef, $10; prawn, $12). Pair eats with a beer ($4), iced tea ($3), or wine served by the glass ($6–$8), bottle ($20–$25), or nanny's tablespoon.
Despite its humble environs of a converted gas station, Savatdee Authentic Thai & Lao Cuisine has racked up a steadily climbing number of accolades. Seattle Met Magazine named it one of the best Laotian restaurants in 2011, an award the Sakounthong family proudly displays in their eatery. “We want our food to speak like it is a five star restaurant, but we want the atmosphere to feel like you are eating in your own kitchen,” said Andy Sakounthong in an episode of Check Please!. Andy–along with his brother, parents, aunts, and grandmother–shop each morning for fresh ingredients and cartoon fire used in dishes that range from cornish game hen marinated in spiced curry to pad mar keur, a grilled-eggplant stir-fry with onions, basil leaves, and yellow-bean sauce. The more adventurous patron can order off of the Lao menu, where galangal and kaffir leaves season a dish of charbroiled chicken mixed with hearts and gizzards.
Araya's Vegetarian Place outfits its menu with an eclectic array of dishes inspired by the Thai tradition and derived from the most elite ingredients the plant kingdom has to offer. Hunger hushes when confronted by the vegetarian spring rolls, an ensemble of seasoned vegetables and bean thread noodles cradled in deep-fried wheat shells and accompanied, like all esophagus investigators, by a saucy sweet-and-sour sidekick ($6.50). The pa-nang curry pampers tofu, broccoli, zucchini, and bell peppers in a velvety coconut milk sauce ($8.50), and the phad phet makhua stars eggplant and fried tofu that traverse tongues in a zesty yellow bean sauce ($8.95). House specialties include the cashew delight, a savory sampling of tofu, mushrooms, and cashew nuts swan-diving in Araya's special sauce ($11.95), and the veggie beef with peanut sauce, where veggie meat, garlic, and garden vegetables rest regally atop a throne of thick, peanut-sauce-laden noodles ($10.95). Asian-inspired artwork adorns Araya’s walls, which encompass a spacious, wood-outfitted dining area. A helpful staff is employed to attentively serve customers and answer any questions concerning dish ingredients or less turbulent teleportation routes to Thailand.
A two-story, 1930s Wallingford house with a pillared front porch and white clapboard siding isn’t the typical setting for pad thai and green curry, but Djan’s Modern Thai Restaurant doesn’t have an interest in being ordinary. Inspired by the eclectic, global tastes of co-owners and brothers Tum and Lek, the restaurant prides itself on fusing East and West in both its menu and decor. Input from chefs in Bangkok and New York City helped create the menu, which tempts diners to sink chopsticks into contemporary versions of classic Thai dishes, such as wok-fried ginger beef or fried rice with pineapple and tofu. Foundational Thai ingredients—coconut milk, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, and basil leaves—still appear on plates, but they share the stage with Hawaiian-style prawns and Japanese shrimp tempura. Instead of washing down mouthfuls by drinking from a date's seltzer-filled boutonniere, diners can sip the vintages from Washington, California, and Chile that grace a hefty wine list.
Djan's decor reflects its cuisine’s multicultural influences with modern, geometric tables and backlit alcoves that give a nod to the past with lanterns and suspended silver bells. For those who would rather eat in the comfort of their own homes or need to feed a party, the restaurant also offers delivery and catering.