The Gossiping Gourmet: Try Thai without hurting your wallet

Tucked away in the corner of a very unprepossessing mini-mall is a tiny box of a restaurant called Thai Gulf Restaurant with a perpetual line out the door. At first, we couldn't tell if people were waiting for a washing machine at the laundromat next door or a table at the restaurant. It turns out everyone was waiting for the chance to eat dinner, and the word is it's like this all the time. However, they do take reservations and honor them.

The vibe here is buzzy and young. We were the oldest people there all evening, by a few decades. This may be partially explained by the inexpensive prices, in particular the complete dinners from $8.95 to $10.95 that include soup, egg roll, fried wonton salad, rice, a choice from a good number of entrées and a dessert.

Brightly colored walls and mismatched short curtains at eye level to block the view of the parking lot, along with a tiki bar cash register stand, provide the décor. Many of the tables have fresh flowers, and all have an authentic condiment tray with hot sauces, pickled jalapenos, chili powder and soy. Although there is no alcohol, we sipped a lovely green tea poured from an especially attractive teapot into pretty little cups.

Thai Gulf features a mixture of Asian cuisines, although Thai food predominates. There are also a lot of Chinese dishes as well as a bit of Japanese and a smidgen of Indonesian. If you choose not to order the complete dinner, we suggest that you order no more than two dishes at a time, as the tables are quite small.

We started with a Chinese appetizer, chicken shu mei. These plump little dumplings were a bit overcooked, not quite as chewy as we would have liked, and the filling was bland. However, they came with an especially good sweet and spicy dipping sauce.

Much better, in fact delicious, was the tom kha seafood soup. A plethora of shrimp, squid, mussels, fish and scallops swam in a fabulous, complex coconut milk broth flavored with lemon grass, jalapenos, galingale and kaffir lime leaves. The soup was light with a citrusy undertone but deeply flavored with seafood juices. The coconut milk provided a creamy finish without being too rich. It came in a large bowl that could easily feed four people as a starter. We simply couldn't stop eating it, even though we had many courses to go that night.

We followed with a classic Northeastern Thai shredded green papaya salad. The immature fruit is crunchy, slightly sour and usually paired with a tart lime dressing and crushed peanuts. It is reputed to be the most popular salad among women in all of Thailand. The version served here was lacking in lime flavor and, although crunchy, was not perky.

When it comes to Thai curries, we are both fans of the green, but our waitress said her favorite was the yellow (kang ka ree), so we decided to order it with chicken, which is the most popular. Like all of the other entrées, you may choose pork, beef, tofu or chicken and, for an additional $1.50, seafood. Yellow curry is a rich sauce and always includes potatoes and, in Thai Gulf's version, red and green bells and onions. The chicken was very tender, and the sauce was mildly spicy and quite tasty. Again, the portion was generous.

Marinated honey duck breast is roasted and then deep-fried. Unfortunately, it tasted as though it had been cooked the day before and then reheated. The meat was dry, but it did have a delicious glaze.

The complimentary dessert was coconut ice cream with a unique and wonderful version of fried bananas. The bananas were sliced, then wrapped in a little packet of dough and deep-fried. The exterior was crunchy and the banana softened and became like thick custard.

We had a lot of food, some very tasty, for very little money — and they deliver.

ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at

Thai Gulf

Where: 19072 Beach Blvd. Huntington Beach


Lunch: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dinner: 5 to 10 p.m.

Closed Mondays and first Tuesday of every month


Appetizers: $4.95 to $7.95

Entrées: $6.95 to $12.95

Dinner specials: $8.95 to $10.95

Desserts: $2.95 to $6.95

No alcohol served

Information: (714) 378-6003 or

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