Currying favor in Paradise
Thai Kitchen Restaurant passes Henri’s curry test
Thai Kitchen Restaurant749 Elliott Rd.
Paradise, CA 95969
A recent rainy Saturday afternoon found Henri with a bit of the winter melancholies. Colette and one of her new boyfriends had gone to San Francisco for the weekend to see Jersey Boys—and had taken Mr. Theo along—and even back-to-back viewings of Meet Me in St. Louis and Harvey Girls couldn’t cheer me up.
I decided to go for a little drive, first bundling Miss Marilyn up in her new wool hoodie from Hands ‘n’ Paws. Of course, we forgot to bring a map. Of course, the overcast sky obscured all landmarks and wreaked havoc on Henri’s faulty sense of direction. Of course, we got lost.
I feared the worst when we passed Skyway Tool Center. Frightening. Would I ever see civilization again? And then I was climbing up into the clouds, Miss Marilyn having wriggled out of her car seat and onto my lap. I tried my best not to let on that I was approaching panic mode, but my chattering teeth probably gave me away.
But wait! A sign: “May you find Paradise to be all its name implies.” Paradise? What its name implies? I looked around. Pine trees. Used car lots. Consignment stores. Not exactly what “paradise” implies to Henri—like Bangkok in the early ‘80s with my little Thai Airways flight attendant, par example. But at least it looked like it might offer some kind of safe harbor.
Sacre bleu! More than safe harbor, and maybe just a taste of paradise after all: a Thai restaurant, which I stumbled upon just as I was turning around to try to get back to Chico.
Thai-food aficionados can identify which of the four main parts of the country—north, northeastern, central and southern—from which specific dishes typically come. Pad Thai, for example, is from the central region, where eggs are often used in cooking, while curry dishes, Henri’s favorite, are typically from southern, Muslim-influenced Thailand. Sour curries are water based and seasoned with tamarind. Red, green and yellow curries are all coconut-milk based and flavored with fresh chilies, lemon grass, galangal (a ginger-like spice), garlic, shallots, kaffir lime, cilantro roots and shrimp paste. It’s fairly safe to judge a Thai restaurant by its curry.
Thai Kitchen’s menu includes dozens of different dishes from throughout Thailand, as well as some traditionally Chinese items, with lots of vegetarian choices: Thai spring rolls, Tom Kha Gai soup (chicken in coconut milk with mushrooms, lime and lemon grass), duck curry (red curry with sliced duck, pineapple, tomatoes and basil), sweet and sour pork, and Muek Gra Prow (sautéed calamari, garlic, onions, bell pepper, basil and chili sauce). Appetizers, soups and salads run $6 to $10, while the main entrees, which include a small salad and white or brown rice, are $7.50 to $11. Desserts ($2 to $4.50) include fried bananas, sticky rice with mango and coconut pudding. Weekday lunch specials are $5 to $7. The menu asks diners to “indicate your spiciness level” on a scale of one to 10.
The restaurant impressed me from the moment I walked in the door, not only by the authentic décor but by the gorgeously lilting Thai folk music playing softly through unseen speakers, as if from some far-away village.
Of course, I had to have the curry, opting for the red this time, which was absolutely divine, served in a large bowl with chicken, cucumbers, carrots, green and red bell peppers, tomatoes, and seasoned with several pungent kaffir lime leaves, with a generous helping of rice. My “spiciness level” of seven was perfect, causing me to perspire just a bit below my eyes and clearing my sinuses. The Thai Kitchen had passed the curry test.
By the time I left, I was warmed up considerably, and the wintertime blahs from earlier in the day had all but passed. We made it back to Chico safely and without incident.