Hideaway getaway

Thai house’s food overcomes shabby

SOUP’S ON<br>Yellow Curry Prawn Soup, part of Chiangmai’s eclectic menu.

Yellow Curry Prawn Soup, part of Chiangmai’s eclectic menu.

Photo By Josh Graham

Chiangmai Thai Restaurant
1835 Oro Dam Blvd., Oroville
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., noon-9 p.m.

Chiangmai Thai Restaurant

1835 Oro Dam Blvd.
Oroville, CA 95966

(530) 532-7930

I would drive all the way to Oroville just for a dish of Chiangmai Thai’s Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango dessert.

The delicate, sweet flavor of the sugary, coconut-milk-laced, sticky white rice combined with a sliced, perfectly ripe half-mango topped with a delectable, sweet, coconut-milk sauce and a gentle sprinkling of sesame seeds is pure delight for the taste buds. Add to that the textural pleasure of chewing the sticky-sweet concoction and, at $5.25, it’s a whole lot of sensual, flavorful bang for your buck.

That said, don’t expect the actual environment of Chiangmai Thai Restaurant—both inside and out—to match the beauty of its mango sticky rice. The eatery is located at the rear of a nondescript, bordering-on-bleak strip mall housing a giant Dollar Tree and a Big Lots, among others. One almost has to know that the restaurant is there—nothing about its outside appearance screams, “Hey! Yummy Thai food over this way!”

Inside, the décor consists of numerous embroidered pictures from Thailand of such exotic scenes as ornately dressed people riding elephants, stringed musical instruments hanging on the wall, statues of Thai women, colorful parasols hanging from the ceiling, and hot-pink-and-gold woven tablecloths under glass (on all, curiously, but one table). The dining room, however, is too dimly lit, in a way that does not add to the ambiance, and the sheer curtain covering the rear doorway to the kitchen could have used a good washing.

The feeling one gets from the scene does not match the food that one is about to eat.

My 8-year-old daughter and I were seated on a recent Sunday afternoon beneath two grand, gold-embellished photographs of the king and queen of Thailand (or Laos, depending on whom you talk to: Our young waitress said Thailand, while a young cook-in-training told us Laos—owner Lea Vinavong, he explained, is from Laos).

We ordered the Yum Fresh Tofu ($7.95) from the salads section of the menu, and two seafood dishes—Ginger Fish ($10.95) and Muek Gra Prow ($10.95), made with sautéed calamari, minced garlic, onions, green onions, bell pepper, chili sauce and basil leaves—with a side of Jasmine Steamed Rice ($1 per person). A specials board, with dishes ranging in price from $7.95 to $15.95, offered intriguing items such as Red Curry Pumpkin (with chicken and prawns), Spicy Lamb and Pad Talay Basils (with prawns, calamari, mussels and scallops).

The salad came first. The warm, steamed cubes of tofu tossed with the cold ingredients (chunks of iceberg lettuce, mushroom quarters, chili, mint leaves, cilantro, lemongrass, red onion and grated carrot) in a snappy lemon dressing was truly “yum,” with the toasted rice powder sprinkled on the salad giving it an extra textural oomph.

My squid was very good, though I wished it had been spicier. The Ginger Fish was delicious—fried and crispy with bell pepper and onion in a punchy, grated-ginger, green-onion and black-bean sauce.

Perfect comfort food for the rainy day that it was.

On a previous visit, our table enjoyed some tasty vegetarian fare such as Pad Knew—pan-fried broccoli, cabbage and spinach with garlic and black bean sauce ($8.50)—as well as the very attentive service of owner Vinavong. However, during this particular midday visit between lunch and dinner the restaurant was staffed with young adults who, while certainly friendly, could have been more observant about such things as removing meal plates before bringing dessert, and restarting the pleasant overhead Thai music once it stopped.

Overall: excellent food, hit-and-miss ambiance.