I follow a quirky rule of thumb not to frequent restaurants with pictures of their food on the menu. So my heart sank a bit when I opened the menu at Thai Thai, the new Thai restaurant in Northwest Crossing last week. Luckily, thanks to spot-on recommendations from an enthusiastic waitress and prime seating for a picturesque sunset over the Cascades, Thai Thai exceeded my initial expectations. The restaurant kept much of the inherited furnishings from the previous owners of the Mt. Washington Drive restaurants, which included 38 Degrees, Aloha Café and most recently NWX Bar and Grill. New owners and longtime Bend residents Corey Bock and Vivah Bachiraseneekul, who moved to the U.S. from Thailand ten years ago, have added a Thai flare with elephant candleholders and wall decorations, photography of a floating market in Bangkok and other small touches.My party was seated in the back of the restaurant, facing west toward the mountains. Paula, our enthusiastic waitress, was quick to check in with us and point out some of her favorite dishes on the menu. Overall, Thai Thai's dishes are on the mild side, so if you're looking to clear your sinuses when you go there, order your dish extra spicy. We started with the satay chicken ($7.50), served with two small dishes of peanut and cucumber dipping sauce. The accompanying peanut dressing lacked the super rich flavor I tend to associate with satay. Later on, I learned from Bachiraseneekul, head chef at Thai Thai, that the lighter flavors are intentional.
"We make everything light. We don't use a lot of oil," said Bachiraseneekul, who grew up cooking and serving customers in her family's restaurant in Bankok.
"This is how my mother taught me to cook," he said.
Thai Thai's menu is smaller than the other Thai options in town. Bachiraseneekul says she wanted to start small so that she could make each dish as fresh as possible. Between us, we ordered four main dishes to share - Drunken Noodle, Mussaman Curry, Pad King and Spicy Basil ($9.95 - $11.95) - along with an order of the Combination Fried Rice ($10.95).
The Pad King was outstanding. The dish brimmed over with a stir-fry of perfectly crisp green beans, carrots and bell peppers tossed with a significant amount of red curry paste and topped with kefir lime leaves. This was the only dish that got our noses running, and we had a suspicion that the only reason it did was because of a mix up with a request for the Spicy Basil to be extra spicy. The Spicy Basil proved extremely mild while the Pad King had a nice kick to it. Nevertheless, it had a bright, refreshing flavor, which pleased the palates of the group.
The Drunken Noodle and the curry were exactly what you'd expect from any Thai restaurant. The Mussaman Curry had a heavy, creamy taste with potatoes, carrots, onion and peanuts in a coconut milk sauce. For the Drunken Noodle dish, flat rice noodles, chili, basil, carrot, garlic, onion and tomato were stir- fried in what the menu calls a "Thai special drunken sauce." The Combination Fried Rice was a big winner around the table. The rice had a generous amount of chicken, pork, egg and shrimp cooked into it, as well as onion, peas and carrots. It was healthier tasting than any fried rice I've had, yet still packed with plenty of flavor. Bachiraseneekul's mother would be proud.
Even though we were full, we ordered two dishes of coconut ice cream ($3) to round out the meal. I'm glad we indulged. The ice cream is made in-house by Bachiraseneekul and features chunks of coconut, sprinkled with crushed peanuts. We were literally licking the bowls.
As long as Thai Thai can keep a steady stream of customers - it was a bit quiet the night we were there, like too many Bend restaurants after 8 p.m. - this restaurant holds promise of becoming a staple for the Northwest Crossing/Broken Top/Awbrey Glen crowd, and those willing to venture out from downtown for a good Thai meal.
745 NW Mt. Washington Dr.
Mon-Sat. 11-9, Sat. noon-9pm,