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Thai Food in Hawaii


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#1 Ms. Meliss

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 12:34 PM

Anyone have any suggestions on where to go for Thai food on Oahu? My absolute favorite thus far is Pae Thai on King St. I've tried a few other's and haven't enjoyed them quite as much. I'm wondering if this is because they serve food from different reigons, and thus use different ingredients but don't know much about them. I'm assuming the food served at Chiang Mai is of course Northern, etc., etc. But it seems for the most part, that many of the restaurants serve the same dishes yet they seem to vary greatly in flavor (maybe it's just me!). Anyway, I'd love to learn more about Thai cuisine if anyone has any info. and is willing to enlighten me!

Thanks!

#2 PakePorkChop

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 08:14 PM

Anyone have any suggestions on where to go for Thai food on Oahu? My absolute favorite thus far is Pae Thai on King St. I've tried a few other's and haven't enjoyed them quite as much. I'm wondering if this is because they serve food from different reigons, and thus use different ingredients but don't know much about them. I'm assuming the food served at Chiang Mai is of course Northern, etc., etc.  But it seems for the most part, that many of the restaurants serve the same dishes yet they seem to vary greatly in flavor (maybe it's just me!). Anyway, I'd love to learn more about Thai cuisine if anyone has any info. and is willing to enlighten me!

Thanks!

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Evaluating restaurant food in Hawaii is so much fun because you really need to go behind the restaurant name and uncover the history of the cuisine, the ownership pattern, the kitchen structure, and the coming and going of the cooking staff.

Many examples abound. Ramen is a chinese noodle soup that was modified in Japan to suit Japanese tastes. Several regions in Japan, e.g., Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Hakata, developed particular ways of preparing ramen. When ramen came to Hawaii, many Chinese owned or operated ramen shops (it is, after all, a Chinese noodle soup), but the tastes were not necessarily in the classic styles of the Japanese regions.

Zaffron is an Indian restaurant owned and operated by a Muslim from Fiji. India Cafe is owned and operated by Indians from Malaysia.

As for Thai restaurants, there are several questions that need to be asked. First, is it owned by people from Thailand? Are they from the North, Midlands, or South? Are they Thai, Laotian, or Chinese from Thailand, or some other ethnicity? If not from Thailand, where? Who sets the menu? Are the cooks Thai, Chinese, or Filipino?

Let's say the Pae Thai is owned by a guy from Boston who hires Filipino cooks, a not unfamiliar situation in Hawaii. That does not necessarily mean that the food does not taste good. It may not be "authentic", but to you it is "tasty", which is perfectly valid because taste is an individually determined sensation.

Sergio Mitronni may decry all of the Vietnamese owned and operated "Italian" restaurants in town, but it would be very interesting to enter the kitchen of Cafe Sistina and count up the number of Paesanos that are actually cooking the food.

There's an old saying among lawyers that you should never ask a question when you don't know the answer, because you may not be happy with the response. That may very well apply to questions about Thai food in Honolulu.

If you want to explore, however, there have been certain whisperings about "Club New Pattaya" on Nuuanu Avenue.

#3 skchai

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 04:45 PM

As PPC said, there can be a huge variation in opinions on Thai Food depending on the criteria you are applying - "authentic", "local-style", "Thai-influenced upscale", etc.

Certainly the granddaddy of Thai restaurants in Hawai`i is Keo's Thai Cuisine / Mekong. We had a thread on it a while back. The food is (or defined) "local-style" Thai, and to a certain extent defined Thai restaurant food throughout the U.S., since the owner, Keo Sananikone 's, cookbook was as far as I know the first nationally-distributed Thai restaurant cookbook in the U.S.

Keo is actually of Laotian descent, but whether this makes him less authentic is an open question, since much of Northern Thailand is of the Lao ethnic group and shares its cuisine with neighbors across the border.

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host


#4 Ms. Meliss

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 08:47 PM

PakePorkChop:

Yes, I realize that there usually is no simple answer. But I'd rather have an answer that I don't like and learn something than get no answer at all so I'm not afraid to ask questions!

I will try to make it over to Club New Pattaya sometime soon. Thanks for the suggestion.


skchai:

Thanks for the reference to the tread on Keo's. I really must go there sometime. I'm one of those lazy people that just doesn't want to put forth the effort to go to Waikiki! And, I agree about MekongII. I was moderately dissappointed myself.

Thank you both for the great info.!

#5 PakePorkChop

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Posted 09 May 2005 - 09:17 AM

PakePorkChop:

Yes, I realize that there usually is no simple answer. But I'd rather have an answer that I don't like and learn something than get no answer at all so I'm not afraid to ask questions!

I will try to make it over to Club New Pattaya sometime soon. Thanks for the suggestion.


skchai:

Thanks for the reference to the tread on Keo's. I really must go there sometime. I'm one of those lazy people that just doesn't want to put forth the effort to go to Waikiki! And, I agree about MekongII. I was moderately dissappointed myself.

Thank you both for the great info.!

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Apparently it's a good idea to telephone ahead if you are having a Thai lunch on Sunday.

I placed Mrs. Porkchop in the car yesterday and intended to provide Mother's Day curry to her. As we drove up to Pae Thai, Chiang Mai, and Champa Thai, each was closed. We fortunately found Bangkok Thai on Kapahulu. New, neat and clean, quiet, BYOB (I had a bottle of cold Pinot Gris), polite and hospitable service.

Mrs. Porkchop ate more than I believed possible.

#6 Ms. Meliss

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Posted 13 May 2005 - 11:22 AM

Apparently it's a good idea to telephone ahead if you are having a Thai lunch on Sunday.

I placed Mrs. Porkchop in the car yesterday and intended to provide Mother's Day curry to her.  As we drove up to Pae Thai, Chiang Mai, and Champa Thai, each was closed.  We fortunately found Bangkok Thai on Kapahulu.  New, neat and clean, quiet, BYOB (I had a bottle of cold Pinot Gris), polite and hospitable service.

Mrs. Porkchop ate more than I believed possible.

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Thanks for the tip. I've been wanting to try Bangkok Thai for some time now, glad to hear it's good!

#7 twhi

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Posted 22 May 2005 - 01:27 PM

I would hold off on Club New Pattaya. Its more of a bar and rather seedy.

Better to try Siam Garden on Nimitz. Its in the same shopping center as Eagle Cafe, clean, comfortable and very good food.

Pae Thai on King Street and Chiang Mai on King Street also come close to the food you can get in Thailand.

It looks like I'll be putting Bangkok Thai on my list.

#8 PakePorkChop

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 01:02 PM

I would hold off on Club New Pattaya.  Its more of a bar and rather seedy. 

Better to try Siam Garden on Nimitz.  Its in the same shopping center as Eagle Cafe, clean, comfortable and very good food. 

Pae Thai on King Street and Chiang Mai on King Street also come close to the food you can get in Thailand.

It looks like I'll be putting Bangkok Thai on my list.

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Club New Pattaya was one of the few, if not the only, Thai restaurant mentioned in Honolulu Weekly's Food Issue in March, 2005. This is what they had to say:

" It’s a seedy Thai bar that just happens to serve the best Thai food in town."

I can only speculate that there may be an ethnic Thai cook in the kiitchen. Other places, such as Krung Thai, may have Chiu Chao (Southern Chinese) cooks from Thailand, or Bangkok Cafe, with Chiu Chao cooks from Laos, or Phuket Thai, with Laotion cooks from Laos. For Larry Geller of the Honolulu Weekly, it may make a difference.

#9 LarryG

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Posted 18 June 2005 - 01:11 AM

>Better to try Siam Garden on Nimitz.  Its in the same shopping center
>as Eagle Cafe, clean, comfortable and very good food. 

Yes, we enjoy Siam Garden also. Among restaurants, it's right up there. And very attractive interior also.


> I can only speculate that there may be an ethnic Thai cook in the kiitchen. [Club New Pattaya]

Yup. When Cookie is there, the food is great. Trouble is, she and her husband are building a new house in Thailand. Her plan is one day to go back there. She's made a few trips during which the food wasn't up to par.

We were in there last week and had some home-made sausage that I don't think was on the menu. Essentially we now put ourselves at her mercy and it has always worked for us.

We don't mind the seediness of the bar, but I wish smoking weren't permitted. I'll put up with it because one day Cookie will be outa there, and then so will I. Meantime, I can't get enough of the place, we brave the tobacco fumes about once a week pretty regularly.

--Larry

#10 kaukaukane

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 07:52 PM

> I can only speculate that there may be an ethnic Thai cook in the kiitchen. [Club New Pattaya]

Yup. When Cookie is there, the food is great. Trouble is, she and her husband are building a new house in Thailand. Her plan is one day to go back there. She's made a few trips during which the food wasn't up to par.

We were in there last week and had some home-made sausage that I don't think was on the menu. Essentially we now put ourselves at her mercy and it has always worked for us.

We don't mind the seediness of the bar, but I wish smoking weren't permitted. I'll put up with it because one day Cookie will be outa there, and then so will I. Meantime, I can't get enough of the place, we brave the tobacco fumes about once a week pretty regularly.

--Larry

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Went into Club New Pattaya for lunch on 9-Jun and the food was GREAT and PLENTIFUL. Ordered Chicken Curry and asked to make it "hot" ... the portion was enough for 4-people. I will definitely go back again.

Siam Garden is okay ... they will add raw crab to the Papaya Salad if you ask. As in most place outside of Thailand you need to ask they make it phrik mak if you want is spicy.

#11 tooearly

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 01:41 PM

it is sad that we dont have a truly wonderful thai restaurant, but i agree the places mentioned are enough to remind me at least of what really good thai food is all about. and make me homesick for the real mccoy

#12 glossyp

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 01:17 PM

We were in there last week and had some home-made sausage that I don't think was on the menu. Essentially we now put ourselves at her mercy and it has always worked for us.
--Larry

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A good friend called us for a last minute dinner before heading out of town last week and we met up at Club New Pattaya. I'm not sure what signals we were giving off but they must have been good since the waitress asked if we wanted to talk to the cook. Out came Cookie (I presume it was her) and I remembered this comment. Basically, we gave her some general guidelines, a noodle dish, some soup and whatever else she wanted to cook. It was absolutely delicious. I asked for at least a couple of the dishes be prepared hot and they were perfect. Definitely the best Thai food I've had here in Honolulu.

I won't repeat the caveats about the bar, smoking, etc. and only say that if you love Thai food, you must try this place.

Thanks Larry!
"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

#13 tooearly

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Posted 19 August 2005 - 10:02 PM

concur on new pataya: a smoky, hole int he wall, KB style, with great food

#14 PakePorkChop

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 08:02 PM

concur on new pataya: a smoky, hole int he wall, KB style, with great food

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Any reviews of "Sweet Basil" on Maunakea Street? The place has been packed since it opened. I tried the lunch buffet and it was a nice sampling of various curries, soups, salads, rices, and the like. My companion had the oxtail pho and cleaned up the whole bowl, an unusual result for him.

What really impressed me was the condiment trolley, a collection of four different blends of chiles, oils, fish sauces, and other substances. The vapors were staggering! I had a tiny sampling of one chile concoction and could not recover for several minutes! The closest experience that I have had to that was the Indian/Malaysian spicing at India Cafe. Hot, hot, hot! Of course, you don't have to add anything at all to your dish if you don't want to, but for the Chiliheads this is a definetely a place to match up against the rest.

#15 glossyp

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 11:20 PM

Any reviews of "Sweet Basil" on Maunakea Street?  The place has been packed since it opened.  I tried the lunch buffet and it was a nice sampling of various curries, soups, salads, rices, and the like.  My companion had the oxtail pho and cleaned up the whole bowl, an unusual result for him.

What really impressed me was the condiment trolley, a collection of four different blends  of chiles, oils, fish sauces, and other substances.  The vapors were staggering!  I had a tiny sampling of one chile concoction and could not recover for several minutes!  The closest experience that I have had to that was the Indian/Malaysian spicing at India Cafe.  Hot, hot, hot!  Of course, you don't have to add anything at all to your dish if you don't want to, but for the Chiliheads this is a definetely a place to match up against the rest.

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As far as our MSM reviewers, Nadine Kam was wowed by the place - she actually used the word "fabulous" to describe it. Lesa Griffith was positive but much less effusive and recommended the a la carte items as opposed to the buffet. Helen Wu hasn't made it there yet but I'm sure she will soon. Personally, I will take your endorsement of the spicy quotient (or at least the potential with the condiments added) as a good reason to give it a try.
"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

#16 PakePorkChop

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 11:23 PM

I'm sorry to report that Kookie, the cook at Club New Pattaya, has gone back to Thailand. Two weeks ago. For good.

There is a sign up at the bar that announces a new cook, but I have not had an opportunity to taste the food.

Perhaps Larry G. could enlighten us?