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For the highest in Thai, head to the top of Soledad

Probably the last place in La Jolla you would look for a restaurant - one that serves authentic Thai cuisine - would be the Mount Soledad area. Yet, that’s exactly where Chawee Keast and her daughter Nissa chose to open one of the best Thai restaurants in the city: Pattaya Thai Cuisine.

Even if you drove back and forth on Soledad Road, you would never find the place, not unless you knew it was tucked into a small shopping area one block off the road on Caminito Blythefield.

It is also somewhat hidden from view after turning off the street. Just park and walk down the small path into the back of the shopping center. You will see the patio and you’ll be greeted by the friendliest mother-daughter team in the restaurant business.

The nicest surprise that awaits you is the quality and variety of exotic dishes that come out of the tiny kitchen. Chef Somkuan Sangain is a master, and he uses nothing but the finest and freshest ingredients available.

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The owner does all the shopping and she’s very fussy about what comes into the kitchen. Keast even imports some difficult-to-find fruits from Thailand.

Even if you haven’t had much experience with Thai cuisine, you have most likely tasted a couple of these Asian specialties. Crab Rangoon, satay chicken and curry are all somewhat familiar, but get the royal treatment at Pattaya.

The crab Rangoon ($5.95) is so delicate and crisp on the outside and so creamy on the inside, you’ll find it quite habit-forming. The chicken satay ($6.95) is also available in shrimp or tofu and consists of thick slices of meat on a long skewer. The meat comes out juicy and tender, and the curried peanut sauce is heavenly.

The fresh spring rolls ($6.95) come stuffed with tofu, chicken or shrimp, along with rice noodles, cucumber, carrot, cabbage, cilantro and peanut sauce. Put out a platter of these at a party, and you’ll get rave reviews.

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As you might expect, Pattaya offers several tempting vegetarian dishes, such as eggplant with chili sauce and stir-fried vegetables in garlic sauce. Pattaya also offers an assortment of pastas.

Be a little more adventurous and check out the seafood specials and the other specialties of the house. The deep-fried softshell crab ($10.95) is wonderful, and the salmon Panang ($10.95) is spectacular with its Thai curry flavoring.

You won’t believe the Pattaya love boat ($14.95), a marvelous mix of fresh seafood and vegetables in a coconut shell: as beautiful to behold as it is tasty.

Among the house specials are Thai spare ribs, pork ribs marinated in house sauce ($8.95), spicy duck, sauteed with ginger, celery and other vegetables in a spicy chile sauce ($8.95) and angel wings ($9.95), a pair of deep fried chicken wings, stuffed and topped with vegetables and sweet and sour sauce.

Even the salads are interesting, such as the green papaya salad ($5.95), a dish designated for die-hard vegetarians.

The restaurant also features a beef salad with charbroiled steak over crisp greens ($6.95), shrimp marinated in lemon juice and spices on a bed of greens and silver noodle salad ($9.95), bean threads, chicken and shrimp in a spicy lemon sauce.

Pattaya Thai Cuisine prepares a lot of food to go, and they do catering as well. Come in any day but Sunday to sample some of the most exciting Thai cuisine in the county.

Pattaya Thai Cuisine is at 6435 Caminito Blythefield. Call (858) 551-1150.

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