With an appetite-inducing color scheme of yellow and gold, and carved teak screens dividing the dining room, Thai 65 feels a little like Bellevue-poshness imported to Renton.
Even at the odd dining hour of 3 p.m. on a sunny Saturday afternoon, this fashionable Thai restaurant at The Landing was bustling. The artfully decorated dining room hosted a comfortable hum of large parties (coming or going from neighboring Regal Cinemas), groups of young men in business attire, young hipsters waiting for to-go orders, adventuresome single diners and fashionable pairs. The place was nearly packed, except for the inviting bar area (which one can only assume comes alive at night after taking a quick peek at the cocktail list.)
Delving into the dinner menu, which is what is served all day on weekends, I spied a couple of authentic hard-to-find Thai dishes on the menu with excitement. Tod Mun and Miang Kam. Unfortunately, we were informed that neither dish is available. “Too many things on the menu,” was the staff’s self-volunteered explanation.
Moving hungrily forward, we decided to test both the classic and adventurous routes left to us. People often say the test of any Thai restaurant is the Phad Thai, spelled in many variations. No matter how you call it, this quintessential 'street stand' stir-fried noodle dish tends to be a crowd-pleaser, and was actually the result of a historical confluence of ingredients brought by the Vietnamese and Chinese to the capital city of Ayuthaya. The Thai added their own touch of tamarind paste, fish sauce and palm sugar which resulted in that perfect confluence of the Thai flavor motto: salty, sweet, sour, spicy. And I can say I experienced it all at Thai 65.
A neighboring table ordered the Thai 65 Sample Plate ($12.95), and since my more authentic appetizer choices weren’t available we found ourselves wooed by the showy display of Thai’s house-named appetizer. This tepee of tempura batter is an impressive spectacle, along with the ceramic dish quadrant of sauces and pickled vegetables that accompany it. Along with a bevy of condiments, the sampler includes two chicken satay sticks, mini vegetable spring rolls, crab delight (seafood and cream cheese deep-fried wontons), and copious tempura battered vegetables.
Thai 65’s Phad Thai ($8.95 dinner) is simple and satisfying, a tangle of tangy rice noodles topped with chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, stir-fried egg, and scallions. While public forums berate inconsistency on how this kitchen bestows spices, I report that on this visit even a 3 star Phad Thai sated my yearning for a chile kick, and I like it hot. I need to go back for some investigative reporting to make my final conclusion on the heat of the kitchen—Saturday's chefs kicked the heat up! Since we chose tofu as our protein, I do wish it had been incorporated into the dish as a stir-fried meat would have been, rather than just being presented with pre-fried blocks on the periphery of the dish.
And now we move into an intriguing dish that I’ve never seen before...Avocado Curry (with chicken, $11.95 dinner). Apparently avocados were brought to Southeast Asian by missionaries, by way of South America, landing in the Nan province of Northern Thailand. (Isn’t food fascinating?). This green coconut curry is complimented with buttery chunks of sliced avocado, red and green bell peppers, and whole sweet basil leaves. Ordered skeptically at four stars, I was thankful for the cooling compliment of coconut milk and avocado, but glad to be trusted with true spiciness.
This is a formidably-sized menu that deserves further exploration and I welcome thoughts on your favorites. Other menu items I will be back to try that I have confirmed are available: Ba Mee Hang (stir-fried egg noodles with bokchoy, $8.95 dinner); Ka Nom Gene (rice noodles in spicy green curry, $8.95); Scallop Prik Pao (stir-fried scallops with vegetables and chile sauce, $11.95 dinner); Mussamun Pork Ribs (ribs sauced in a sweet-spiced coconut curry, with potatoes, peanut and onions $12.95).