Outside, rain beaded against the windows with the last fleeting gleam of daylight on Rainier Avenue. We rushed inside, dodging February weather, pausing too briefly to take in the enticing specials board... Inside, an altar was set for the gods with a bowl of freshly peeled mangoes—even on a stormy Renton night, dinner at Royal Orchid is warming.
Real orchids (not silken facsimiles) grace the interior of this award-winning restaurant. Diners are graciously greeted, should you be picking up a to-go order or here to stay in the colorful dining room made up to resemble a villag . Even around 6 p.m., on a drizzly Saturday evening, this restaurant was continuously packed with new diners.
What sets Royal Orchid apart from normal Thai restaurants? The influence of ”Chef Deang,” former executive chef of the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel, a four-star luxury accommodation in Bangkok, Thailand. We are lucky indeed to have her influence here in the Pacific Northwest.
My chef-husband chided me for not ordering “staple” items on Royal Orchid’s menu: Pud Thai and Pud Kee Mao. But being the menu adventurist, I hoped to delve a little deeper... I must say I’d love to pressure Royal Orchid into actually following through on an unavailable menu item that is listed, Pandan Chicken. A Southeast Asian delicacy and personal favorite of mine, tender pieces of chicken are knotted with smokey green tea-flavored Pandan leaves. Stop torturing me and take it off the menu, or better yet, make it!
Royal Orchard explains that Thai dishes draw inspiration from Chinese, Indonesian, Malayasian and even Portuguese cuisine. I did not order the “Lamp Curry”... (Love mistranslations on foreign menus.)
In the darker months of Northwest winter, it’s lovely to dream tropical and savor the availability of healthy, fresh, and affordable Thai cuisine which balances out richer coconut curries. A Larb Salad ($8.95) is just that. There are three meat choices, ground (pork or beef) chicken being the lightest. Thai food is big on flavor, and if you look at the latest gourmet magazines, chefs are striving for ways to heighten flavor with less fat.
Larb Gai? Case in point.
Ground lean meat is tossed with lime juice, fish sauce, ground roasted rice, mint, red onions and cilantro. This tangy platter of veg and protein is accompanied by loose lettuce leaves onto which you spoon your filling and make into delicious rolls, which you can dip into chile-spiked sauce.
While I know Royal Orchid’s Pud Thai is good, I decided to go off the beaten path and ordered us Rad Na ($9.95), a Thai-Chinese confluence. Apparently there are two ways to make this dish, and Royal Orchid chooses to go saucy with an exotic preserved yellow bean paste (taucheo) rather than a drier-style sauteed noodle. Prawns ($2 extra) were in generous proportion to the wok-tossed vegetables, my only ‘beef’ was that the rice noodles were clumped together at the bottom of the bowl.
The Hot Summer ($11.95) stirs up a warming combination of beef, pork, and chicken with red curry paste and plenty of peppers, green beans, onion, bamboo, zucchini and mushrooms. This was the one dish we ordered four stars on spice, and it made for a pleasant warmth. The Green Curry ($9.95) was a favorite of mine with sauteed eggplant, plentiful basil, thick and creamy coconut milk broth, and I appreciated that the chef’s choice in such a rich dish was fresh and firm tofu rather than fried.
Rice options include brown and jasmine ($1.50 a bowl), which pleases both of us. Royal Orchid has stopped entertaining Entertainment Book coupons, but has provided us a $5 off coupon with each visit. It’s wonderful to know that a warming taste of the tropics, both hospitable and affordable is just a run down the hill...
Royal Orchid Thai Cuisine
104 Rainier Ave S
Renton, WA 98057
Hours of Operation
Lunch: 11:00 am - 4:30pm
Dinner: 4:30pm - 9:30pm
7 Days a Week