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 m?lange of assorted garden vegetables, deep-fried and served with sweet-and-sour sauce, make up the veggie tempura, and the jasmine-tinged creme br?l?e 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.
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 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.
Dianne?s Delights delivers what every event really needs?a dose of sweetness. The dessert-catering company bakes a kaleidoscope of frosting-laden treats, whether they?re traditional desserts such as cupcakes and seasonally decorated cookies, or more modern morsels such as cake pops and cake balls. They even take the guesswork out of wine-and-dessert pairings with wine-infused cake balls, which marry the flavors of wine with moist cake. These goodies come together in a variety of forms, including ornate gift boxes and themed dessert bars topped with colorful cake pops, miniature brownies, and tiny tarts. The staff arranges the treats on multi-tiered serving trays and wooden boxes that might top a shabby-chic vintage dresser or nestle next to candle-filled mason jars. Whatever the setup, the delicate pastries add much-needed decadence to corporate events, weddings, and dog retirement parties.
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.
One ancient Siamese tradition that isn't carried on at Buddha Ruska is the floor cushions on which its populations would dine. Although the guests at this eatery gather around modern tables, they maintain tradition as they dig into the classic Thai plates that are Buddha Ruska's specialty. Chefs top coconut milk-cooked curry with bamboo shoots and prawns, drizzle flank steak with chili-lime sauce, and stir-fry baby bok choy in aromatic garlic. To their traditional menu—and simple Zen decor—they've added a cocktail lounge where guests can pore over the lengthy wine list or use it to study for an upcoming trivia party at Dionysus's house.
Although Ayutthaya Thai Restaurant & Bar first opened its doors to Capitol Hill in 1985, its roots stretch back much further than that. The Zagat-rated eatery takes its name from the ancient capital of Thailand, and the menu finds similar inspiration in traditional Thai culture. The chefs rely on decades’ old recipes as they make five different kinds of curry in-house, and create dishes of pad thai wrapped in egg that embrace a culinary tradition that has become increasingly rare. To round out the menu, the chefs also wok-fry fragrant combinations of garlic, basil, lime leaves, ginger, and pineapple, forging entrees like the bathing rama, which the Seattle Times hailed as “a bit of peanut-sauce heaven.”