In a piece about Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood, Seattle magazine lauded Naam Thai Cuisine as a place “where the locals gather” for authentic Thai fare. Their favorite: the paradise prawns, large shrimp tossed in Thai spices, stir-fried with yellow curry, and dressed in little Hawaiian shirts. The eatery’s selection spans surf and turf, with chefs counting crispy chicken, beef blazed in sweet soy sauce, and pad kana—meat sautéed in oyster sauce—as house specialties. Round out an authentic lunch or dinner plate with a cocktail, some of which feature a house-infused lemongrass vodka.
“You’ll be a born-again Thai food fan after tasting the bright, fire-cracker version [of pad thai]” said Seattle Magazine about the dish created by husband and wife team Poncharee and Wiley Frank. But the magazine–-which named Little Uncle the Best New Restaurant of 2012––didn't stop there. "The food dances on the palate, shot through with lime, zinging with vinegar, with the heat of chiles tamped down by coconut milk or soft, steamed jasmine rice." That Little Uncle should win such venerable praise from Seattle's foodie community is even more awe-inspiring considering the restaurant's long and winding road to the top of the food chain. A trip to Thailand first inspired the Frank’s endeavor into authentic Thai cooking, and they spent the next two years perfecting their street-style food with a series of pop-up restaurants and a farmers market stall, before permanently setting up shop at a take-out joint in Capitol Hill. Aside from that signature pad thai, they're also serving up dishes like braised beef cheeks, which are served stuffed into a steamed bun to make them 'walker friendly" and keep grandmas from pinching them.
The aromas of peanut sauce, lemongrass, and spicy chili pastes drifting throughout the dining room at Araya's Place may seem familiar at first, but the eatery isn't like most Thai restaurants. It eschews meats and dairy entirely, forging a distinctive menu that led The Stranger to hail Araya's University District location as "Thai vegan heaven."
Working exclusively with GMO-free tofu and produce sourced from local farmers whenever possible, the chefs cook classic Thai dishes as well as a handful of slightly more imaginative creations. "I do not want to be only Thai vegetarian food," owner Araya Pudpard explained to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2008, "I want to be international vegan food."
The international twists are evident throughout the menu's otherwise familiar selection of stir-fried noodle dishes and aromatic curries. A mélange of assorted garden vegetables, deep-fried and served with sweet-and-sour sauce, make up the veggie tempura, and the jasmine-tinged creme brûlée conceals a vegan and gluten-free custard beneath a one-molecule-thin layer of crisp sugar.
But even with these occasional twists, Thai staples still dominate the menu's pages. One of the restaurant's more iconic dishes, the tom yum soup, is so spicy that it has appeared on the Food Network show Heat Seekers, which features two chefs who travel around the country looking for mouth-burning dishes and ice sculptures to lick afterward.