New digs complement traditional South Asian menu

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photos by mary preiser potts

Thai Orchid Vancouver recently moved to its new home at the corner of 11th and Columbia streets in downtown. Months of renovating resulted in a modern, thoughtfully-designed interior with reclaimed wood and handcrafted metal accents. Expect the same friendly service and warm atmosphere inspired by owner, Kat Saenguraiporn.

The traditional menu comes from her uncle’s Portland Thai Orchid restaurants. According to Kat, the recipes are authentic Thai dishes adapted and brought to the Northwest by her aunt and Thai Orchid executive chef, Prapapen Saenguraiporn. In addition, Kat offers rotating monthly specials, and she added a sushi bar in 2010.

Kat explained that in Thailand there are many Japanese restaurants, so Thai chefs learn to make sushi from Japanese sushi chefs. But, Thai sushi is a little different. For starters, there is less of a focus on rice, which she says can overwhelm the other flavors.

“In Japan sushi is plain, fish and rice. It’s all about the flavor of the fish. Thai sushi focuses on presentation. If it looks beautiful, that becomes part of the taste,” she said.

The sushi chef at Thai Orchid creates inviting sushi platters with colorful roe, sauces and vegetable garnishes, accompanying beautifully arranged rolls and sushi. I was treated to an artisan platter that included salmon and tuna sashimi, a crab roll topped with red, orange, black and green roe, and a Coconut Gaga roll, recommended by Kat. The Coconut Gaga roll is a fresh and creamy combination of cream cheese, avocado and mango with flaked coconut. I also sampled the sushi balls – think nigiri on a stick – featured on the new kids’ menu. Everything was superb, but I almost felt guilty for eating something so beautiful!

I also had the Pad Thai, which is served with sliced chicken breast to accommodate the American palate, as well as the more traditional shrimp and small pieces of fried tofu. Crushed peanuts and bean sprouts are served on the side, then mixed together creating a flavorful yet not-too-spicy entree. I thoroughly enjoyed its distinctly different flavors and textures. The sauce didn’t drown the noodles and the noodles didn’t dampen the sauce – proportion is everything.

For refreshment I sipped the Kiwi Kamikaze, also a house favorite. Fresh kiwi and lime juices mingled with vodka, cointreau and finely crushed ice. It was sweetly tart and delightfully smooth.

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