Turn up the spice

Orchid Thai

Good for: modern American Thai food
Notable dishes: coconut shrimp and curried red snapper


1609 16th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 476-3681

If you plan to open a restaurant across the street from Fremont Park in a space whose annual rent is likely equal to the gross domestic product of New Guinea, then you better be bringing your A-game. You need to serve swanky cocktails with quirky names, food that’s bangin’ and consistent, and stay open late.

Lucky for Orchid Thai, they’re pretty much doing just that.

The outdoor patio overlooking the park is glorious and possibly one of my new favorite people-watching venues. Service is also friendly and knowledgeable, being able to give good recommendations.

The crispy calamari salad, however, tasted terribly bland due to the pittance of lime juice and coconut tossed upon it. On the plus side, the calamari is well-fried.

Coconut shrimp tends to be one of those dishes that’s either ethereally crispy, aglow with the flavor of coconut; or a rubbery, too-sweet Outback Steakhouse reject. Here, it’s the former: succulent, crispy and rich with the flavor of coconut. Sadly, it’s served with a plum sauce whose sweetness annihilates the delicate flavor of the coconut.

The Bangkok wings are the appetizer you crave for midblackout, beer in hand. Wings tossed with a sauce crafted from pineapple, fried garlic, peanuts and ginger.

Pad Prik Khing—a dish of stir-fried green beans was light and crispy. I recommend you order it with fried tofu, which brazenly soaks up the flavor of chile and kaffir lime to a most glorious effect.

Our pad se ew arrived as washed out as 1980s BBC programming. The vegetables were limp and the chicken jerky-esque while the black soy sauce somehow vanished in the mix failing to bring out the flavor in the other ingredients. It was the only big miss of the night.

The curried red snapper, however, was served light with a tangy sauce. If ever there’s a perfect dish to enjoy on a patio on a warm Sacramento summer night, then this is it.

I prefer my curries punchy, but do appreciate the occasional art of subtlety as Orchid’s massaman curry exhibits. The warm spices of cinnamon and cardamom dawdle on the tongue while the tamarind practices the art of being a wallflower; along with the chile and peanuts, the disparate ingredients come together to make one harmonious dish.

Cocktails here are Thai-inspired riffs of old classics. (Think an Old Fashioned with a swirl of tamarind.) However, they all lean to being so sweet that I half expected one of my dining companions—all professional actors—to break out into a Wilford Brimley impression and warn me about the dangers of diabetes.

A final note, white-person heat is practiced at Orchid. So white, it’s gone full albino. Ask for your food’s spice level to be hot, as the human tongue can barely perceive Orchid’s idea of medium; and, if you need to further enflame your food, a number of chile-laden options can be provided.

All and all, Orchid Thai is a welcome addition to what can be a town sometimes too, too crowded with Thai restaurants. Late hours and good food make it an exceptional coda to any evening.