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 firstname.lastname@example.org.