dinner report: Sea Thai Bistro, Santa Rosa
(This is the same report/review I did for Yelp (with a few additions)...I didn't see any prohibitions against reposting a review of my own from another site when I checked the etiquette page..so if I am breaking a "Chowhound rule", please let me know! (-: ) This is my very first chowhound review, so be gentle!
After hearing so many good things about the SEA Thai restaurant in Petaluma, but not having had a chance to check it out, I was excited to learn that another "outpost" had opened up closer to home. As of this evening, they have been open less than a month. Based on the fact that it was a Monday evening, and the place was full, I think they will be quite a success.
The interior design is beautiful and calming. What was once a not-so-pleasant and oftentimes dumpy feeling spot (when it was the EastWest Cafe)has been transformed...walking up to the front entrance, we were greeted by a beautiful fountain, gurgling away peacefully, and once inside, the dark burgundy walls decorated with art brought in from the natural world (driftwood-coloured twigs, with seed pods and moss scattered throughout), candles, and warm but not overly bright lighting created a sense of cozy, clean, refined elegance. The space is a bit odd...shaped like a backwards "L", and with the high ceilings it can get a bit noisy when there is a full crowd within. I didn't find it too obnoxious though, and was able to have a decent conversation with my tablemates without having to yell or even raise my voice that much.
We were seated promptly, and even though they were quite busy for a Monday night (the waitress mentioned that they weren't expecting such a crowd) the service was prompt and efficient. We were sitting towards the back of the restaurant and I never felt ignored...waters were refilled often, the waitress checked in on us enough to be helpful and not obnoxious.
We decided to order the "Starter's Parade" appetizer ($18, but you get twelve things) to get a good taste of everything. It included golden spring rolls, crispy prawns, chicken satay, lamb satay, mummy chicken, and "little basket" which is crisp egg noodles, shallots, cilantro, tomatoes, carrots and cashews all wrapped up in a lettuce leaf. A bit of peanut sauce, some sort of house-made sweet clear sauce, and a bit of cucumber "relish" were included for dipping. It was presented beautifully and tasted even better. The satays were cooked perfectly...chicken was a bit juicy and not too dry, the lamb was a treat (I've never had lamb satay before). The fried things (rolls, prawns) were light and not oily at all, and perfectly crisp. The flavours were crisp and clean. Next up was the Princess Green Papaya Salad: tomato, green bean, tamarind, pam sugar, romaine lettuce ($8). Large portion. Wonderful. Yummyummy in my tummy. The tamarind flavour was not overpowering...all the flavours were very balanced...the whole thing was clean, refreshing and fun to eat! Presented with two lettuce leaves, you piled the salad into the leaf, and ate it, taco-style, with your hands. Nearly as good as getting to play with your food. Two main dishes for the table were ordered with brown rice: Pad Thai ($13) and Garlic Delight Beef: in spicy asian soy glaze with onion, green onion and cilantro ($12). Both were excellent. Again, nice portion size, beautiful presentation, well-balanced flavours. Everything was dancing across my taste buds. Nothing felt too heavy or oily or overpowering.
Dessert is a must-have here. We had four choices of sweet delights(all $6): sauted pineapple slices with coconut ice cream, banana fritter with coconut ice cream, raspberry pinot noir sorbet and..bah..I'm completely blanking on the fourth dessert. Among our table, we tasted the three I can remember...and they were all amazing. Portions were perfect. The sorbet was an intense spoonful of dark red berry and pinot heaven. The coconut ice cream melted in my mouth and took me to another place. The banana fritter was light and creamy and the batter was crispy and not too oily or thick. Apparently both the sorbet and the coconut ice cream recipes are the chef's creation, but not made inhouse at the moment. He has a San Rafael ice cream and sorbet maker creating his lovely recipes.
The wine/beer/drink list was impressive. Quite a few wines available by the glass and even more by the bottle. Thai iced coffee and tea are available as well as lychee nut tea which I have never heard of before. They have a nice selection of loose leaf tea (I think at least seven), which is unusual to see and a pleasant surprise. I saw a drink that I hadn't heard of before, "Dry Soda"...which is, according to their website: "all-natural, non-caffeinated, flavored with fruit and herb extracts, and sweetened with a small amount of pure cane sugar." SEA Thai had three flavours available: lavender, lemongrass and kumquat. I tried the lavender. Tasty, light, refreshing and it went very well with the thai food flavours. Coffee is available too (served in a french press, which always brings a smile to my face) and apparently they get their beans from Sleepless Coffee which looks to be out of Seattle (when I did a websearch). I let them know about Ecco Caffe (http://www.eccocaffe.com), which is a local (Sonoma county) roaster who does amazing things with organic and fair trade beans. Maybe they will take a look at switching to an even more local business with great product.
I asked our waitress if there was a difference between the two restaurants, and apparently SEA Thai in Petaluma is focused more on simply Thai food, and this spot has a focus on Thai influenced by the places nearby, such as Japan. They also use organic and sustainable products whenever possible.
Excellent, beautiful and tasty experience. I plan on being a regular.
Hopefully they will have their website up soon so people can take a gander at their menu. Another review of the place (before they had their liquor license and right after they opened) can be found here: http://biteclub.pressdemocrat.com/def...
Sea Thai Bistro
2323 Sonoma Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
Thanks you for writing such a detailed report, chocolateninja! I went with a friend a few weeks ago for an early lunch and also really enjoyed my meal.
I agree with you completely about those satays. The chicken and lamb were perfectly cooked, and the lamb had a strong lamb taste without being gamy at all.
Our waiter suggested the Pad Thai when we asked which was better between that and another noodle dish (I want to say that it had the word "black" in its name, but I'm not sure), and I enjoyed it. My friend pointed out to me that it was a bit sweet for her liking, and I think it could do with a slight tweak there. The shrimp were perfectly plump and moist, though, and as we were sharing, I could see that we were eyeing each other to make sure that we had an equal number.
We also ordered the mahi mahi with portobello mushroom tempura. I'm not a big mahi mahi fan, and this one didn't do much to change my mind, as I found it to be a bit fishy tasting. The portobello mushroom, however, was absolutely out of this world good. I feel like I keep bringing up my food being "moist," but it describes this mushroom perfectly. The contrast between the panko crust and the luscious mushroom was amazing. I thought I had had tried just about everything fried in panko and that there weren't any surprises left for me. Boy, was I wrong. When I ate the mushroom with the fish, I didn't notice any of the fishiness, but after trying them on their own, I found myself occasionally combining the two more out of obligation than anything. There are also some bell peppers and some other vegetables, I think, but they didn't add a whole lot to the dish.
We couldn't finish either of the two dishes despite having not eaten all day and arriving at SEA Thai ready to feast. We didn't save the mahi mahi or the mushroom because we didn't think it would keep well, and though I accidentally left the Pad Thai at my friend's house, I heard her mom enjoyed the leftovers.
As we were finishing dinner, I knew I felt like eating fried bananas so I asked if they had any before even looking at the menu. Thankfully, they did, and it was delicious. In a perfect world, I would get more than one small banana on my plate, but it was perfectly crispy and not too sweet at all. Sometimes, you get fried bananas with that thick corn starch fry that can be unpleasant. This one had a light fry that allowed you to fully enjoy the silky banana underneath. I'm glad you liked the sorbet because now I have to go back for it. The ice cream was deliciously creamy with a pleasingly strong coconut taste. It had little bits of coconut in it which made eating it more interesting.
Our server was incredibly friendly and could tell me about each dish I was interested in on the menu. I agree about the décor and liked seeing that a hip restaurant could open up in Santa Rosa that was approachable and had great food. One caveat I have to mention, though, is that my friend noticed sitting at the booth and looking out at the parking lot that the light was far too bright for the unlit restaurant. I didn’t think too much of it, but she kept mentioning it. When we finally switched seats before leaving, I was surprised by how difficult it was to focus on her face. I don’t think I could have eaten dinner sitting there, and if I had known, I would have switched tables immediately. Now that I think about, I think I’ll mention it to the management next time I go.
All in all, however, SEA Thai is definitely in my rotation of restaurants now. Like you said, chocolateninja, it was an excellent, beautiful and tasty experience.
Five Star Experience and reasonable prices
I'm a huge fan of Thai food, and this is definitely one of the top Thai restaurants out there.
The ambiance in Sea Thai Bistro is a 5. It's really is quite nice inside! The tables and chairs, the decor, the plating and the wait staff -- All outstanding.
Food had the sophisticated presentation that one sees in places a few times the price of Sea Thai Bistro. I ordered Satay Sampler for starter and Angel Eggplant beef. OMG both dishes were so good and BIG. I had the leftover for lunch next day. My sister had Golden Spring Roll and Pad Thai Noodle. She loved them (and let me tell you she is not easy to please, hehe). Our bill came to $37 for two appetizers (the size of entrées), two entrées and a soda. I found the price to be very reasonable for the great food and the five star environments.
The second time I visited the Sea Thai Bistro I had Shrimp Ceviche and Holy Basil Chicken. I thought again the food was delicious and beautifully presented. I also discovered that their wine list lived up to the quality of their menu. I had a glass of Iron Horse Champagne and it was a celebration for my taste buds. It felt like having a glass of the best French Champagne for the price of a California Sparkler.
To sum it up I really liked eating in Sea Thai Bistro and enjoyed the ambiance. This is not the cheapest Thai restaurant out there and is not meant to be, but you will get five star menu and ambiance for the same money that you will spent in average restaurant.
Glad to hear you enjoyed it! I went back about a month ago and was surprised to find that quite a few of the menu items were sweeter than I remembered. Considering the price, I wasn't sure if it was worth going back any time soon, but it sounds like I was there on an off night. The portobello tempura, however, was as delicious as always.