Taste of Thai
Address:15770 San Andres Drive, Del Mar
The Vibe:Elegantly casual
Signature Dishes:Spicy Noodles, Thai Fried Rice, Pork Shanks a la Val, Ped Krob Kraprao, Pad-Cha Seafood
Happy Hour:4:30-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday
Hours:11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
By Kelley CarlsonThe experience at Taste of Thai is an opportunity to sample the exotic — from the decor to the cuisine. Owned by Val Habbestad, a native of Thailand, and her husband, Art, their upscale Del Mar location is the newest and largest of the two restaurants they operate. The original site, in Hillcrest, was among the first Thai eateries in the San Diego area.
“Taste of Thai is run by people who care about customer service and food quality,” said general manager Mark Habbestad.
Guests are greeted by women in Thai costume, and seated in one of several areas. The modern dining room features Asian accents such as gold-leaf lotuses on the burgundy walls, a large ginkgo flower image inlaid in the floor, geometric patterns on the ceiling that change color, triangle-shaped windows and paper lanterns.
About a half-dozen customers can sit at the adjacent bar and sip on Singha beer or a glass of wine, and perhaps listen to the background instrumental music if it’s not a peak dining period. Outside, patrons can relax on a heated patio strung with tiny lights and bordered by rock planters.
Food is prepared only after the order is placed, allowing for dishes to be customized. They are made to a person’s spice preference, on a scale of 1 to 10 — with 10 being the hottest — and can be altered to satisfy vegans and vegetarians.
To begin their meal, guests can select from a dozen appetizers, including Fried Tofu, Crispy Calamari and Angel Wings, which is boneless chicken stuffed with ground pork, cellophane noodles, black mushroom, carrots and onion and served with a sweet and spicy sauce.
Among the salads available are Som Tum, which contains fresh green papaya and dried shrimp; and Thai Salad, with bean sprouts, hard-boiled egg, lettuce, cucumber and red onion with peanut dressing.
Mark recommends that first-timers try one of several soups — Tom-Khar, Tom-Yum or Tofu — along with a curry and a noodle dish to balance out the meal. Taste of Thai is especially well known for its Spicy Noodles, with basil leaves, green pepper, chili, garlic and egg.
Some of the restaurant’s popular specials include Pork Shanks a la Val, which is two tender pork shanks sautéed with Thai herbs, chili, green pepper corns, garlic, kachai, lemon grass and lime leaves; Ped Krob Kraprao, a crispy, boneless half duck that is oven-baked and topped with chili, garlic and Thai basil sauce; and the 8-ounce grilled Choo-Chee Salmon.
Entrees are served with a choice of jasmine or brown rice at no extra charge, Val emphasized.
For dessert, she recommends Fried Banana and Coconut Ice Cream.
While there isn’t a children’s menu, Taste of Thai is “very accommodating” to food preferences, and crayons and paper are available to keep kids occupied, Habbestad said.
For those looking for a quieter dining experience, the ideal time of day to go is between 4 and 5 p.m. As a bonus, dine-in food is 25 percent off during that time Monday through Thursday, as part of happy hour.
“We’re so grateful for all the community support over here despite the economic downturn,” Val said.
On The Menu RecipeEach week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
Pad Thai Goong Sod from Taste of Thai