Royal Thai

DINING OUT

Laguna Beach was first introduced to the many-faceted tastes of

Thailand in the summer of 1985 when Sam Tila and his brother Lek

launched Royal Thai Cuisine on Coast Highway.

The site, fronting a historic building, which had been moved from

the Downtown area, welcomes guests to a fish pond-centered porch for

al fresco feasting. Past these portals is the cozy dining room where

diagonally slatted burnished wood walls are magnificently adorned

with the fascinating art of Thailand. The impressive scenic paintings

and colorfully costumed dancers cut from sanded stone beautifully

reflect the theme of that exotic culture.

Boasting one of the more extensive Thai bills of fare locally, the

brothers have carefully included copious descriptions of various

dishes. A tiny firecracker icon warns patrons of spicy items. And for

those who crave more intense heat the menu states "all dishes can be

made spicier, double spicy or triple spicy." Conversely, a

heart-healthy logo fronts the many dishes based on vegetarian meats,

tofu and assorted noodles.

Beyond the usual Thai beginnings of spring rolls, satay skewered

beef and chicken strips, starters include crisp little katoang thong

shells filled with chicken/shrimp/ vegetables; naked shrimp seasoned

with lime, nampla, chili and lemon grass; spicy tod-mun fishcakes;

and mixed seafood yum ta-lay with eggplant/onion/cucumber/ lemon

grass in lime sauce. At $5.95 and $6.95, all are accompanied with

peanut sauce, honey mustard and cucumber chutney.

Savory chicken broth flavors a quintet of soups healthfully laden

with al dente vegetables. Typical are delicious tomyum hot/sour

replete with chicken breast and mushrooms and coconut tom kah

seasoned with Laos roots -- $3.95 a cup, $6.95 for two. Interesting

salads, in the same price structure are the country style som tom

toss of green papaya with crushed peanuts and the royal green blend

embellished with grilled beef or chicken in spicy lime dressing.

Seafood rates a special heading starting with a catch of the day

for $14.95. Whether steamed or grilled, there's a choice of black

bean or lemon grass sauce, spicy Thai, curry or three-flavors. Priced

from $11.95 to $16.95 are such as the talay paow medley of shellfish

and fin fish embellished with two sauces, pan-fried calamari with

zucchini, pampano and catfish topped with sweet and sour or spicy

sauce, Alaskan king crab legs with curry and huge freshwater prawns

from Chao Prayer River grilled with tamarind curry.

A fun twist is the list of entrees designed to mix and match with

18 different accompaniments. Choose vegetarian meat, tofu or

mushrooms for $8.95; chicken, pork or beef, $9.95; shrimp, calamari

or roast duck, $10.95; scallops or assorted seafood, $11.95. Team any

of these with varied combinations of vegetables, sauces, nuts, spices

and herbs. For example -- steamed spinach/broccoli/ with peanuts,

yellow curry/potato/onion, red curry/eggplant/basil bamboo shoots,

cashew nuts with roasted chili/carrots/scallions.

A trio of "Royal Proclamations" is offered for two or more at

$17.95, $18.95 and $20.95. Each includes appetizers, soup or salad

and two to four entrees depending on additional persons. Weekday

lunch specials with soup, salad, spring roll, steamed rice and entree

selections are $5.95 to $8.95. A memorable starter to any week is

Sunday champagne brunch, a delicious four-course repast of appetizer,

salad, entree and dessert for $11.95.

For your sweet tooth, $3.25 to $4.95 buys fresh coconut and mango

ice creams, bananas flambe, New York cheesecake and more. Although

there is no bar per se, a full range of cocktails and smoothies is

available featuring premium label liquors exclusively. Martini

aficionados are sure to appreciate that the trendy dozen of these

potables each bear an unbeatable $4.75 price tag.

* GLORI FICKLING is a longtime Laguna Beach resident who has

written restaurant news and views columns since 1966. She may be reached at 494-4710 or by e-mail at ghoneywest@aol.com.

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