A dining experience at Royal Thai Cuisine is casual yet refined, in the Thai tradition of gracious hospitality. Popular favorites like Pad Thai noodles and Kang Ped (red curry) are expertly prepared and artfully presented in generous portions. Accompaning the menu are a wine list well-suited to Asian cuisine and a large specialty drink menu including alcohol-free fruit smoothies! Décor is tasteful and tranquil, with fresh sprays of orchid blossoms adorning each table, a monumental water sculpture in the center of the dining room, and a wall of tropical fish. A treat for the senses at a reasonable price!Read More ...
Upon reaching Royal Thai Cuisine in La Jolla, you might think you’ve come to the wrong place. With a liquor store and a taco shop next door, it may seem a little more casual than you’d bargained for. Go ahead and open the door. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful pearl inside this oyster shell!
Royal Thai Cuisine is part of a group of restaurants operated by third-generation restaurateurs, the seven Tilakamonkul brothers, which includes three other locations: Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. Chef Lucky Tila operates the La Jolla venue. Their menu proudly announces that they’ve had the honor of serving the Queen and Princess of Thailand as well as other members of the Royal Family and they promise delicious flavors and exotic atmosphere to delight both the eyes and the palate.
When I arrived, I was greeted by a gentleman behind a small granite bar by the front door. A hostess soon appeared and seated me at a table by the window, which turned out to be great for people-watching as I waited for my dinner companion to join me. Glasses of water were immediately served as I perused the large, seven-page menu. The wine list consisted predominantly of middle-range California wines with a few French wines such as Beaujolais, which is unpretentious with enough fruit to pair up nicely with the rich coconut or spicy chili and lime of a Thai dish. Also among the choices were oriental plum wine, port, and champagne.
The martini list was so enticing that, even though my dinner companion and I usually order wine, I decided to order the Royal Thai Martini #2, a chilly vodka martini with Lychee fruit, which was surprisingly delicious! Note that you can have your drink prepared with premium spirits at no extra charge. And, for a touch of fun and romance, any of the Specialty Drinks can be ordered “for two.” Your drink is then served in a large decorative ceramic “mug” which you can take home.
It soon became evident that when they say “We serve each of you as if you were the Royal Family,” they really mean it. From the generous and well-thought-out selections on the menu, to the friendly and competent servers, our meal was seamlessly enjoyable.
The dinner menu presented a wide array of choices – spicy, sweet and sour, lime, chili, mango, and savory soy flavors across meat, seafood, chicken, duck, vegetarian, rice, and noodle dishes. You’ll find familiar favorites like Pad Thai—broad noodles with chicken in a peanut sauce—as well as more exotic fare like Chun Bu Ree Treat, a spicy calamari and zucchini dish.
In addition to several categories of entrees and house specialties, the back page of the menu lists several all-inclusive, family-style meals. This is true Thai hospitality. In Thailand, guests order and everyone shares. You’ll also notice, in typical Thai fashion, there are no knives on the table; only a fork and spoon. In Thailand, people use their spoon for everything. True to form, in the dishes we sampled, the components were cut into bite-sized pieces so there was no need to use a knife. This goes back to Asia’s Buddhist tradition, where harmlessness is an important virtue, therefore knives, which could be used as weapons, were at one time allowed only in the kitchen!
Looking around, I noticed that my fellow patrons came in many shapes, sizes, and ages: an elderly couple out for dinner, a young couple on perhaps a first date, a mom and her daughters. This is a family-owned restaurant providing a neighborhood retreat where guests feel as welcome in blue jeans as in a business suit. The décor is modern, clean, with muted tones of lavender and taupe. Smooth jazz provides a soothing backdrop to the upscale atmosphere along with the soft patter of the water sculpture in the middle of the dining room. Cloth napkins, white linen tablecloths, and fresh orchids on every table contribute to the casual elegance and tranquil setting.
The appetizers we chose came freshly prepared in generous portions that could easily have been the main course. Larb consisted of tender minced chicken in a light chili-lime sauce with a touch of mint, served on decorative lettuce. Yum Woon Sen was a substantial serving of chilled cellophane rice noodles with chicken, shrimp, cashews and fresh vegetables including cucumber slices, shredded carrots, and green onions also in chili-lime sauce with fresh mint. In both dishes, the sweet and tangy lime was balanced nicely with the spicy chili and cool mint, and the heat of the chili only gradually became more noticeable with each bite.
Our first entrée was Kang Ped, red curry with chicken, bamboo shoots, Thai eggplant, and Thai basil. Here is a dish that’s a little sweet, a little spicy (and you can request any degree of heat that suits you), made of savory chicken and vegetable morsels in a rich creamy red curry sauce, accompanied by steamed white Jasmine rice. As my dinner companion said, it was seasoned with just the right mix of ingredients to be luxurious on the tongue without being too spicy. Our second entrée, Pad See-Iw, stir-fried noodles with chicken and broccoli, was a mild, savory dish of rice noodles, chicken, and lightly stir-fried veggies. It was, again, well balanced, fresh, and wonderfully satisfying.
For dessert we had Kao Neo Ma Muang, fresh mango served with sweet sticky rice and coconut milk and a scoop of Fresh Coconut Ice Cream. A sliced half of a mango, perfectly ripe, tender, juicy, and sweet with the exotic spiciness that characterizes this fruit was accompanied by warm, sweet, sticky rice. The fresh coconut ice cream was an added treat, rich with coconut flavor.
Our dining experience was very enjoyable. The menu was interesting enough to be a miniature adventure for the senses. The dining room was infused with a gentle beauty that allowed us to relax and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. The service was friendly and gracious and we truly felt well taken care of in this casual, inviting atmosphere. This was a great value at a reasonable price, appropriate for a family dinner, a business lunch, or a relaxed romantic evening out.
Royal Thai Cuisine’s La Jolla location, 737 Pearl Street, has been open for fourteen years. They serve lunch and a Sunday brunch in addition to dinner. Quarterly cooking classes are also held at each of the restaurant’s locations and are conducted by Chef Sam Tila, who runs the Newport Beach location. The $54 fee includes a four-course dinner with champagne. They offer catering as well.
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