10107 Main St
Bothell WA 98011
Look up 'Fanthaistic' and You'll Find Pen Thai
By: Steve G
Thai food in downtown Bothell? I know, there's a couple of questions about that statement that might scratch your head. First question: Yes, there is a Bothell downtown. Second question: Yes, there is great Thai food here. The name of the place is Pen Thai and its a sister restaurant of a wildly popular place named Chantanee in Bellevue. More often than naught, when restaurants tend to expand into multiple locations something always seemed to be lost in translation. Take no heed in those worries though, since Pen Thai delivers some of the best Thai food to the Bothell locale with a lot of poise and grace.
For the most part, Downtown Bothell is a pretty unassuming with all of its local businesses and shops. From the outside, Pen Thai blends into this landscape but once you enter the door your eyes are treated to some impressive style and taste. Intricate woodwork adorns the entire restaurant with a variety of artwork displayed throughout the restaurant. Most of which is for sale, though we do regret the chance to ask if all the pieces are from a local artist.
We had the Phad Phed Calamari for starters to go along with our complementary Wonton Soup. Stir fried with bamboo shoots, carrots and a long list of vegetables. For all of us, the dish seemed a little disappointing. Due mostly to its texture, the squid seemed considerably tougher than others that we've had in the past. The Wonton Soup was a great start to the meal with its nice mix of vegetables and mildly salty broth (no MSG in effect here).
The Crab Fried Rice was a pleasant surprise with some great ingredients and good flavors. Mixed with a small assortment of vegetables and small pieces of fresh crab, every spoonful of rice was full of flavor that had a hint of buttery taste. The rice was so infectious and delectable that it can almost stand by itself as a great meal.
Served to us on a hot sizzling plate that turned the heads of almost all the patrons, the Sizzling Panang Duck sounded intriguing on paper but seemed to come up short when it got to our table. The meat seemed to be really dry and that may be a result of the plate but the texture didn't seem completely right. A little tough and chewy, it seemed like just a regular roast duck with Panang sauce on top of it with coconut milk.
For what shortcoming the duck had, the Crispy Garlic Chicken made up for it in spades. Perfectly fried and lightly battered, the pieces of moist white chicken meat that had the right blend of garlic and basil. Combing it with the crab fried rice is makes one of the most addictive dishes ever.
The last thing we tried was the Fried Ice Cream, though it isn't what we thought it would be. Other Thai places have offered the dish, though this incarnation of it had no resemblance to anything we had and Pen Thai isn't shy about it, noting "This has nothing to do with Thai food, it's just really good."
The service at Pen Thai was remarkably fast which usually leads to poor quality food, but the food was steaming hot and well prepared. One of the key things to look for from good service is the overall vibe of the patrons and everyone was pretty lively and happy while they were there, a true testament to Pen Thai keeping everyone happy. Oh and for those nay-sayers who say Pen Thai isn't authentic because of lack of chopsticks. News Flash: Vietnamese is the only Southeast Asian country that uses chopsticks, the Thai eat with fork, spoon and knife just as in Western Cultures. So if the staff roll their eyes a bit when you ask for chopsticks, now you know.