I always find Asian dishes to be quite satisfying for their fabulous juxtaposition of texture, spice, and crunch. And most local Thai and Chinese restaurants offer hot and hearty choices at lunch for less than $10. But I'm particularly fond of Thai cuisine--I love the kicked-up heat of their dishes. I've favored two restaurants in SLO County over the past few years: Thai Talay in Pismo Beach and, more often lately, Thai Palace in SLO. But I discovered a new place just a few blocks from my home in Pismo Beach named Thai Dheva, and I was so impressed by its food I ate there three times in one week.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- TASTY : Thai Dheva's cuisine is addictive.
# During the first meal with my husband, Dan, we ordered pad himmaparn: an intensely-flavored spicy chili paste that covers chicken, onions, bell peppers, and crunchy cashews with a delightful, brick-colored sauce. I was miffed when Dan beat me to the last bites of this addictive dish. We also devoured the kang keaw warn, a mild but comforting green curry with meltingly tender eggplant, crisp zucchini, green beans, and bamboo shoots in coconut milk with sweet basil, for which we chose prawns. Dan and I were so excited about Thai Dheva, I was planning our return as we walked out the door.
As with most Thai restaurants, the menu choices describe what's in the dish, and you can choose chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, tofu, or "vegetarian meat." I failed to ask what the heck the latter means, probably because I detest creative "meat" or "crab." In an attempt to appeal to all tastes, the menu reminds you to order your food mild, medium, hot, or not spicy at all. I wish I'd heeded that advice when I returned three days later. From the lunch specials menu, I tried the clay pot that features shrimp and chicken with carrots, celery, onion (the vegetables all perfectly al dente), bamboo shoots, and mushrooms, with a creamy white sauce over steamed rice. It's the ultimate comfort dish and quite bland, perfect for those who hate spicy foods. Of course, I wished I had ordered something with the intensity of that unforgettable cashew chicken dish.
I first learned of this terrific eatery in an e-mail from a New Times reader in Santa Maria who eats at the restaurant weekly. I was enticed when he described Thai Dheva as the most authentic Thai food on the Central Coast. He was sure, he said, because his daughter-in-law is a native of Thailand. That was enough to drive me there that night. I've never been to Thailand, but I can say that Thai Dheva rates among the best Thai restaurants I've enjoyed in America. Not only that, the precious young Thai woman who runs the dining room, Nujarin "Yui" Lamsiricharoenchok, makes dining here an exceptional experience.
Yui (You-e) is the ultimate hostess and server: personable, friendly, knowledgeable, and honest. At my first visit, Yui had no idea who I was, but introduced owner and chef Kris Bhoomsuwan, who helps her deliver food and drinks when the small dining room gets busy. The quiet chef asked, "How is everything?" "Excellent!" Dan and I chimed at once, and with that he rushed back to the sanctuary of his kitchen. Bhoomsuwan has help in the kitchen, but Yui takes of the dining room by herself.
She admitted that she followed the chef from their native Bangkok to America. Both of them worked at Thai-Talay and Yanagi Sushi Bar and Grill before he opened Thai Dheva. Although not a co-owner, Yui explained: "I'm helping Kris follow his dream with this restaurant."
Our last meal there was every bit as delightful as the others. Dan and I returned with winemakers Lane Tanner (Lane Tanner Wines) and Rick Hill (Labyrinth Winery). We dined family style and feasted on addictive appetizers like moo yang (barbecue pork) with tamarind dipping sauce and Thai dumplings. Lane asked for more of the wonderful tamarind sauce in a to-go container so she could attempt to duplicate it at home. The first of four entrees, pad see eew, pan-fried wide noodles with black gourmet sauce, broccoli, and shrimp, was good but a little too bland for all of us. Yui does provide a tray of spice condiments, with Kris' homemade fire dry spice mix, so you can spike up your food to your desire. We enjoyed the panang curry, a spicy red curry with snow peas, carrots, green onions, and shrimp. We ordered the cashew chicken again, and it was every bit as fantastic as the first time we tried it. Near the meal's end, I greedily snagged the last of it.
Rick, a native of New Zealand, surprised us when he told Yui in her native tongue that the meal was excellent. We learned that he'd visited Thailand three times, where he learned "just a bit" of the language, and he said he thought Kris' food was quite authentic. Unfortunately, they don't have a liquor license so they only offer sodas, teas, and signature Thai drinks. Sill, we all agreed that Thai Dheva is a destination for great Thai food no matter how far away you may live from it.
INFOBOX: Try the Thai
Thai Dheva is located at 501 W. Grand Ave. (at 5th Street) in Grover Beach. It's open daily for lunch and dinner. For more information, call 481-3663.
INFOBOX: Don't forget it's Restaurant Month!
I've already taken advantage of dining in some great restaurants participating in Restaurant Month throughout SLO County. So I was compelled to remind "Cuisine" readers of this terrific opportunity to dine in our finest restaurants at bargain prices, thanks to the SLO Visitors & Conference Bureau (SLOVCB) inaugural promotion: "30 Dollars, 3 Courses, 30 Days." From Paso Robles to Pismo Beach, 30 restaurants are offering this incredible deal. Check out the restaurants' special menus in advance on the SLOVCB's website and you'll have no problem deciding where to dine during this outstanding event. Visit www.SanLuisObispoCounty.com/RestaurantMonth.
Cracked Crab: 773-2722
Custom House: 595-7425
Gardens of Avila: 595-7365
Pelican Point: 773-0000
Spyglass Inn: 773-1222
Tanner Jack's: 473-8485
Two Blocks Off the Beach: 773-0332
Black Cat: 927-1600
Windows on the Water: 772-0677
San Luis Obispo
Apple Farm: 544-6100
Atrium Cafe : 549-0800
Big Sky: 545-5401
Cafe Roma: 541-6800
Corner View: 546-8444
The Park*: 545-0000
Carlton Restaurant & Grill: 461-5100
Deborah's Room at Justin Vineyards*: 237-4149
Paso Robles Inn Steakhouse: 238-2660
Villa Creek*: 238-3000
(* some restrictions apply)
Contact New Times' Cuisine columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.