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Jul 21, 2008 04:16 PM

Best Thai in Seattle

Hello Hounds. I am visiting Seattle for the month and I have a serious craving for thai food. I took the advice of city search and went to the best thai food in Seattle ( and I was left disappointed. The food at Sea-Thai was just above average so I hope it is not the best that Seattle has to offer. I have been to Typhoon is Portland and it was fine but not spectacular and a little on the pricey side for what you got. A friend suggested Thaiku but I wanted to reach out to chowhound for suggestions.

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  1. There is a past discussion if you search for it. My 2 cents are:
    Thai Siam on 15th and 83rd for some of the hottest, good thai in the city.

    Thaiku is pretty good, too.

    Vieng Thong on MLK is probably around the most authentic. It is Thai-Laotian, but is probably more Thai.

    Thai Tom on the ave in the U-district is divey, but doesn's disappoint me. But I like divey places and some people have said that it is heading down hill. I'll have to try it to believe it.

    6 Replies
    1. re: BallardFoodie

      You are very correct about Thai Siam on 83rd! Their food is delicious and fresh.

      1. re: BallardFoodie

        ugh, thaiku. i hope this isn't the best seattle has to offer.

        1. re: BallardFoodie

          Thaiku is closed.

          I really liked their Kow Soi. :(

          1. re: brownox

            I think I heard a rumor they're re-opening in phinney/greenwood?

            1. re: brownox

              Brownox, try the Kao Soi at Pestle, around the corner in the old Snoose Junction space. Though when I had it last week, it was a special, so I'm not sure how often they'll have it.

          2. I really like Mays in Wallingford for "upscale" Thai, May Ploy in Ballard for everyday (and delivery!) Thai in Ballard (owned by the same family as the best Thai take out downtown May Phim) and Racha in Queen Anne for variety and soup noodles. I used to like Jai Thai in fremont but it is on the sweet side. Years ago I used to go to Siam on Lake Union and really enjoyed some of their dishes, but it's been years.

            I've never liked Thaiku - way too oily and flavors lacking. Nor do I like Thai Tom much - I've found their food lack-luster. I also dislike Thai Siam - boring food (IMO).

            Caveat - although I lived in Thailand as a teenager for a little while, it's been a long time since then, so who knows if my picks are truely "authentic" or just tasty.

            1. Are you able to get out to Issaquah? Noodle Boat in Issaquah is my personal favorite and has been praised frequently in the past on Chowhound as some of the best Thai in the area.

              25 Replies
              1. re: Chrome_CW

                I second Noodle Boat. I haven't had better Thai in the greater Seattle area, and the menu has some interesting alternatives to the usual.

                1. re: jencke

                  We tried Noodle Boat last night--the "Cookbook Chronicles" blog post finally made me want to drive all the way to Issaquah.

                  It was great. We had two of the dishes shown in the blog--the game hen ("volcano gem hen" on the menu) and the Queen of Banana. Those were fantastic. We also had a starter that was like Yum Woo Sen, which I love but isn't easy to find. It was pretty good except we all disliked the fishiness and crunchiness of the little dried shrimp. Our friends had regular stir fry type dishes that you'd find on any thai menu, and while they liked them, they weren't particularly special. Noodle Boat has all those standards you find everywhere, but they have quite a lot of unusual (for Seattle thai restaurants) dishes. I'll go back to try more of these.

                  You can't see this place from the road. Turn into the Denny's on Gilman, then go east through the parking lot. It's at the end next to the nails place.

                  1. re: christy319

                    That's great that you had a good experience there. I have been there now a number of times and have enjoyed it very much. I don't recall seeing the Queen of Banana. What exactly is that?

                    1. re: kgreig

                      Check out the blog post I linked--there's a photo and description.

                    2. re: christy319

                      I went last night, also after reading that post. I got the Queen of Banana and the ground meat dish she recommended, Ka-Pow-Rad-Khow, and they were both outstanding. I've never had bananh blossom that way, and its essence blended with coconut, chile and lime into a dressing that was almost otherworldly. Our friend got Phad Ped Pla and that was also great, as was my wife's dish, Tod Mun Curry & Ka Nom Jean, a curry with fish cake and rice noodles served on the side.

                      1. re: equinoise

                        As one who has been a chronic whiner on this board about the sad state of Thai food in Seattle, I’m eager at long last to check out Noodle Boat. I know it has been praised for awhile now, but my feeble excuse for not going there long ago it that it’s a schlep to drive out to Issaquah and the missus usually objects to a proposed “excursion” just for the sake of a meal, using it an excuse to point out what she regards as my obsessive-compulsive food disorder. What most interested me in christy319’s post was her reference to the “little dried shrimp” in the Yum Woon Sen. Even though Christy didn’t like the dried shrimp, my reaction was, “Wow, could it be that a Seattle-area Thai Restaurant doesn’t dumb down its food for the typical American palate?” I even checked Noodle Boat’s menu description for Som Tam in the hope that it would include, at least as an option, salted freshwater black crabs, and maybe even pla rah (pickled mudfish). It didn’t, though it did include dry shrimp, which is another traditional version of this dish.

                        1. re: Tom Armitage

                          Show your wife these pictures and see if that works:


                          Just don't make the trek during their annual closure, when they go to Thailand to research new dishes--I believe it starts sometime in April or May and lasts 4-5 weeks.

                          1. re: christy319

                            Thanks. Good idea. It might work. For the record, I once took my wife on a small "side-trip" after a hike in the Shenandoah Mountains to a small town in Virginia get some country ham and biscuits. She brings it up incessantly and publicly. I don't understand what the big deal was. It was only a four-hour there and back, and both the ham and biscuits were fabulous!

                            1. re: Tom Armitage

                              Mrs. Rowe's? I've done that side trip.

                              1. re: christy319

                                It wasn't Mrs. Rowe's but, alas, I've forgotten the names of the store and the town. It was a small store, with an old screen door and hams hanging everywhere, from the ceiling, on the walls, etc. I had to drive a few blocks to a local bakery for the biscuits. I'll have to do some research to see if I can dredge up the names of the shop and the town.

                            2. re: christy319

                              Tom: I think you would enjoy Noodle Boat, it's in a class of its own in this area. Though I would not expect you'd find it particularly strong on the Issan/Northern side of things; I'm curious if based on your experience you'd find any particular regional predilection there. Maybe you could do some recon on that front and encourage the proprietor to keep going regional, funky and unique. IMO, the items on the "S" or "N" menus are the most interesting. While you are waiting see if you can get an accurate count of the buddha figures in there.

                              Ka-Pow-Rad-Khow, which was the favorite dish in that cookbook chronicles post, is also available at Sea Thai, and there it includes a fried egg. I was eating the NB leftovers today, and thought that on my next visit there I'd make the request to add an egg on top. Quality wise, the dish itself at NB was better than Sea Thai.

                              Noodle Boat
                              700 NW Gilman Blvd Ste E104B, Issaquah, WA 98027

                              1. re: equinoise

                                True, they don't have the dishes that I love that are on Lotus of Siam's northern menu section.

                                1. re: christy319

                                  Ah, well, Lotus of Siam. One of my proudest Chowhound accomplishments was being one of the original discoverers of LOS. My original Chowhound post (on the Los Angeles Board) regarding Renu Nakorn, Saipin and Bill Chutima’s predecessor restaurant in Norwalk, California, is on the wall in the entrance of LOS. Saipin Chutima is a semi-finalist, for the second time, for the James Beard Foundation Award for the Best Chef in the Southwest. May Saipin live and cook forever!

                                2. re: equinoise

                                  I finally got around to going to Noodle Boat. What an idiot I am for waiting so long to do this. As I swooned with pleasure at each bite, I kept saying to my wife,
                                  “At last, at last.” The food is from Central Thailand, which has its own culinary tradition separate from Northwestern Thailand (with milder Burmese and Southern Chinese influences), Northeastern Thailand or Issan (which shares the fiery-hot flavors of Laos), and Southern Thailand (with Malaysian influences and a heat level several notches above Central Thailand). (The only restaurant I know of that serves authentic Southern Thai cuisine is Jitlada in Los Angeles.) My wife and I shared three dishes, two of which have been mentioned many times as must-haves: queen of banana and ka-pao-rad-khow. The third dish was the zabb zabb salad with beef – basically the classic Thai beef salad (yam neua) with some minor variations. All three dishes had nicely balanced, complex, and authentic flavors – a welcome relief from the dumbed-down, overly sweet, Americanized Thai dishes at most Seattle restaurants. The flavors at Noodle Boat transported me not just to the authentic Thai restaurants in Los Angeles, many of them located in Thai Town along Hollywood and Sunset Blvds., but all the way over to Thailand. One thing that sets Noodle Boat apart from other Seattle Thai restaurants is its use of authentic ingredients. In the ka-pao-rad-khow (roughly translated, “basil with steamed rice), for example, they used of Thai holy basil (kraphao), the flavor of which made the dish sing. Very few restaurants use Thai holy basil. Most use the more readily available Thai basil, a different herb with a different flavor. By the way, our waitress, the owner’s daughter, asked us without prompting if we wanted an egg of top, to which we answered “yes.” Suffice go say, we’ll be coming back to Noodle Boat very soon and often.

                              2. re: Tom Armitage

                                Hello to anyone out there, I LOVE Pad Thai, but it seems hard to find a truly good one. The best I've had (so far) is at Thai Taste in Seattle, the worst was at Woodinville Thai, truly horrible food. Who makes the best Pad Thai in Seattle?

                                Thai Taste
                                601 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

                                1. re: Jeanvieve7

                                  The best pad thai I've ever had has been at a restaurant I recommended farther down on this thread called Royal Orchid in Renton. I'm actually not usually a fan of pad thai (it's usually too sweet, not enough bang for the caloric buck), but this place grilled the meat (pork in this case), which lent a nice smoky flavor to it.

                                  Royal Orchid
                                  104 Rainier Ave S, Renton, WA 98057

                                  1. re: Jeanvieve7

                                    This isn't my favorite dish so I'm not a good judge, but I know people that love the one at May Thai in Wallingford, and it IS discernably different than most I've had.

                                2. re: equinoise

                                  While running errands in Issaquah, we stopped at the Noodle Boat for lunch. A word of warning: the kitchen may or may not agree to make anything from the dinner menu during the lunch hour. We simply asked to see it after we were handed quite an extensive lunch menu, which didn't feature any of the specialties. The wait staff can only ask on your behalf. Fortunately for us, the kitchen was obliging. We ordered Queen of Banana and BBQ Chicken. The Queen of Banana is one of those dishes that has multiple taste sensations and textures. On top of a steamed banana leaf comes chicken and shrimp tossed in a sweet-sour dressing of chile sauce, nuoc mam, lime juice, lemongrass, green onions, toasted coconut, finely shredded lime leaves, cilantro, mint and banana blossoms. The blossoms were really intriguing. We couldn't identify it; we had to ask. Normally, this might be the excellent dish that others say it is, but our sample had overcooked shrimp and a tired appearance, possibly from an overload of dressing that pooled at the bottom. Nevertheless, the flavors were terrific and vibrant. The BBQ chicken was a great combination of perfectly grilled and moist chicken (the dark meat with skin still on and nicely browned), bathed in a curry-coconut sauce, served with an exceptional sweet chile sauce. Overall, the meal was very good. It is true that there are dishes here you won't find anywhere else in the area. We definitely will return and try some other dishes. 

                                  1. re: chazuke

                                    I just ate at noodle boat yesterday. The BBQ chicken was so good, among the best chicken I've ever ordered at a restaurant. I kept losing my place in the conversation when I took a bite. I'd just stop in the middle, zone out, then go "wow that's so delicious." This BBQ chicken in coconut curry with sweet chili sauce was worth the trip alone. The phuket rice was a little disappointing. There were some fabulous bites, but other bites had overwhelming flavors of lemongrass and onions for my tastes. I don't know if this is the way it's supposed to taste, maybe it's an acquired taste. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as some other stuff. Also, I HATE HATE HATE when restaurants have TV's on during dinner service. And it was staff that was watching it. Grr...

                                    But the chicken was just heavenly. Don't forget the thai iced tea, as well, a generous portion of delicious stuff served in a clay pot.

                                    I want to eat here 3 or 4 more times before I decide if it's the best thai place I've been too. They hit a lot of really high notes with their food.

                                    1. re: TheFoodEater

                                      I whole heartily share your aversion to televisions in restaurants but if you have ever spent any prolonged time in Thailand then you already know they are a ubiquitous irritation in most Thai eateries. Worse, if you ask the staff to turn it off you end up insulting them. Unfortunately, it is all part of the mai-bpen-rai attitude of that country. Non-Thais pretty much just have to live with it.
                                      I've spent 3 to 5 months in Thailand every year since 1988 so I am quite familiar with this phenomenon. I know Issaquah is not Thailand but even though we hate them, we can chalk up the TVs to cultural authenticity at the Noodle Boat.
                                      All that aside, I would still rank the Noodle Boat in my top 3 picks of Thai restaurants for authentic Thai food among the hundreds of Thai joints in this area. Here you can find bpoo pad pong garee (crab stir fried in curry powder) which is a gem of Central Thai cookery that is hardly ever found in your run of the mill Thai restaurant in the US. My other two choices would be Vieng Thong off MLK for Thai/Lao/Isaan food and Thai Curry Simple in the International District across from the bus tunnel escalators. I only really recommend Thai Curry Simple on Saturday mornings when they offer up a made for Thai expat's menu. It's only written in Thai on the menu board but the friendly owners/staff will gladly translate it for you or you can check out their facebook page a day or two beforehand when they will post the special menu in English.
                                      A few other Thai places in the greater Seattle area may have one or two items on the menu that are quite good and authentic like Jai Thai in Freemont's penang curry (when made by the owner) or some of the single plate items at the original Mae Phim downtown but for the most part I wouldn't recommend 98% of them. Several times I did eat at Bai Tong near the airport when it was on International Blvd. years ago and found it to be very good too. I haven't been there since they changed locations quite some time ago now so I can't really give a fair assessment of that place anymore.
                                      Why anyone would recommend the dumbed down gruel at Thai Tom, Racha Noodles or May Thai is beyond me.

                                      Noodle Boat
                                      700 NW Gilman Blvd Ste E104B, Issaquah, WA 98027

                            3. re: Chrome_CW

                              I see pretty much unanimous praise for Noodle Boat - but am I the only one here a little underwhelmed by it? I've been there twice, and have failed to taste anything that is really exceptional. What dishes do they excel in?

                              Disclosure - not a big fan of Thai food, but I do like Racha (?) in Queen Anne and some of the stuff at Siam on Lake Union.

                              1. re: HungWeiLo

                                Racha in Queen Anne is one of my favorites. Very flavorful food!

                                1. re: HungWeiLo

                                  Noodle Boat Was really fantastic. Try the #1 (gosh I cant remember the name of it. It has wide rice noodles, really fresh crisp veggies, and a spicy basil/chili sauce. SOOO good.)

                                  Their Pad Thai is...ok. A little red saucy for my taste.

                                  1. re: HungWeiLo

                                    Third time's the charm. I strictly followed some of the dish recommendations here and had a good time. Unfortunately, my wife is not used to some of the sour-ness of the SE Asian dishes so did not enjoy it as much.

                                  2. re: Chrome_CW

                                    Yeah... We love Noodle Boat and their eclectic decor.

                                  3. Didn't think Thaiku was anything special, and actually quite dissapointing. I wouldn't recomend it, or it's sister restaurant across the street 'la carta de oaxaca'... both bland and generally uncharacteristic

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Papa Kip Chee

                                      Aww...I like Carta. I agree with the disappointment with Thaiku.
                                      My suggestions are Tup Tim Thai on lower Queen Anne or Kwanjai Thai over the hill in Fremont. Both are dives, but haven't let me down when I'm in the middle of a massive larb gai craving !

                                      1. re: emcityjill

                                        Tup Tim Thai is a new favorite with a fun staff. Kwanjai Thai was my old neighborhood standby- delicious but on the sweet side. Tried Thaiku a couple weeks ago- It is a great place to eat at- not just get takeout from- more one the spice oily side- but came across as more authentic tasting.

                                        Any of those I mentioned above are great places to eat at or do takeout from.

                                      2. re: Papa Kip Chee

                                        I completely agree about La Carta De Oaxaca. Maybe it was the hype that set my expectations so high?

                                      3. I'm a big Thai food fan and I personally really like Thai One On on Lake City Way in N. Seattle and Tawan Thai in Fremont. Jai Tai in Fremont used to be really good a few years ago but recently the flavors are bland and the dishes are mediocre. Thaiger Room in the UDistrict is pretty good considering the price and location. I got through college eating there at least twice a week.