By Anna Poole Herald Restaurant Critic
EVERETT — Behind all the fast food joints that line both sides of 128th Street SW near the freeway exit, there’s a family-owned Thai restaurant that puts its own twist on many dishes.
Ton Kaew Thai Restaurant, which opened recently in a remodeled taco stand, serves pan-fried tapioca pancakes stuffed with Chinese leeks (6.95), has a larger variety of seafood in its main dishes, and uses ingredients such as shitake and white mushrooms for new flavor combinations.
At the same time, the menu has our Thai favorites, including larb chicken salad ($7.95), panang curry ($8.95) and black rice pudding ($3.25).
The house specialties are “Divine Rice,” which is described as “Bangkok’s favorite basil dish,” crab fried rice (both $11.95), seafood in yellow curry ($10.95) and selections from the grill such as fresh vegetables ($8.95) and a New York steak Thai-style ($11.95).
On a recent Saturday visit, my friend ordered one of the house specials — sweet and sour chicken. I had the beef pad Thai, and we split an order of yum woon sen. All were $8.95.
Let’s begin with the most popular — pad Thai. My dish was a familiar mix of rice noodles, bits of scrambled egg and sliced beef with a richer-than-usual flavor. This plus was offset by the fresh vegetables — carrot strips and bean sprouts without any fresh basil.
Although the sweet and sour chicken had the familiar red color, it wasn’t the anticipated taste of the syrupy-sour sauce served in most restaurants. Instead, it’s sweet and sour, but chili gives the dish heat and its red color. My dinner companion ordered his dish “one star,” and we agreed this was the perfect setting to balance flavor and heat.
The yum woon sen is a salad that’s served on torn iceberg lettuce and layers bean thread noodles (also called crystal noodles), ground chicken, tomato slices and seafood in a spicy lime sauce. The sea scallops, prawns and calamari rings were very fresh and perfectly cooked. The salad was as different as it was delicious.
And this delicious difference means Ton Kaew Thai Restaurant is doing it their way.
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