D'Anna Thai Kitchen
Currrying Flavor: The inviting D’Anna Thai Kitchen satisfies Marina’s Southeast Asian fix.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Arestaurant located in a converted house has some immediate advantages. There is a coziness that no amount of decorating in a commercial building can provide. The act of walking through the front door of a home can engage the senses, stimulate memory and evoke mood. Such are the conditions at D’Anna Thai Kitchen.
Formerly My Thai, the new D’Anna Thai Kitchen isn’t really new. The same chef, Anna Sawadpeera, has taken over the former partnership and continues to make her reputable Thai specialties in the two-room restaurant.
The kitchen is open and shares one room with three small tables. There’s a good vibe coming from the kitchen and I wished it were open into the main dining room. Ithas six tables and a homey charm, but I’d prefer to bask in the energy stirred up by Anna and her female assistant, Nom. It’s nice to see two women running the show in a restaurant.
The decorations on the bright orange walls are random, which I appreciate for that authentic feeling of a foreign culture that doesn’t see things quite the way I do. For example, a plastic picture of horses, like a giant placemat, is tacked up to where the wall meets the ceiling, with no border of wall along the top. Original!
I can reprint the entire wine list here: house Chardonnay, house Merlot, and sake. $4 or $4.50. The Chardonnay was surprisingly decent. I felt no need to know what kind it was. My guest got hopped up on a Thai lager, Singha, for $4. The rich, 100 percent barley malt has more hops and a higher alcohol content than most American lager (5.8 percent compared to 3.7 percent).
I wanted to begin with vegetables and the hardworking, personable Paul, the only waiter, said the fresh rolls are the best rice paper wrap in town ($7.95). I figured he was just being enthusiastic and doing his job. But he was right. The ingredients are well blended so there aren’t big boring chunks of any one item. The tightly constructed wrap is easy to eat, unlike many that fall apart. The carrot, lettuce, cabbage, cilantro and chicken insides come with “signature sauce”; Paul said only the chef knows the “many ingredients” and she makes it specially for this popular dish.
Five soups and eleven appetizers are priced $4.95 to $7.95. Among the fried shrimp rolls, fried tofu, and steamed mussels is one of Anna’s less traditional creations, the Marina roll. It’s a tortilla filled with tofu, vegetables and peanut sauce ($6.95). I wanted something lighter and ordered a cup of Tom Yum soup ($3.95). The vegetables had a just-cooked firmness and the tart broth was light yet full of dynamic flavor.
Salads range from $4.95 for mixed greens with mango or peanut dressing to more elaborate concepts at $7.95 to $13.95. A duck salad, squid salad, eggplant salad and prawn salad all sound intriguing with ingredients like shredded apples, mint, cilantro and lemongrass.
Paul showed us his own 8-by-10 photos of the evening’s specials – all are featured regularly or seasonally. We asked about the artichoke and pumpkin red curry with our choice of protein (most entrees come with tofu, chicken, pork or beef; $3 extra for shrimp, scallops, squid or other seafood). When we wondered aloud how pumpkin might be with curry, our neighbors intervened to highly recommend it.
It was good advice. The labor-intensive dish was stocked with pieces of freshly cooked pumpkin and artichoke and tender squid. Coconut-based red curry sauce originated as a winter curry made from dry ingredients due to seasonal availability. It has endured because the concentrated flavors of dry chilis, galangal and other spices have their own appeal. We enjoyed this wonderful, high-value dish over sticky rice ($10.95, add $3 for seafood).
We ordered my favorite Thai dish, panang curry, with salmon and it was lovely. Also a coconut-based curry similar to red curry sauce, panang is richer, with fresher ingredients. It was priced the same and we luxuriated in the amazing things good panang does to whatever it touches – in this case, green beans, bell pepper, carrot, kaffir leavees and basil.
Paul didn’t know the source of the salmon, though he was aware of the Seafood Watch program. He was busy, so we didn’t press him to get details and I believe we made our point: Customers care about the source of their food.
In addition to its classic noodle dishes, curries and entrees, the menu includes “D’Anna Favorites.” These include a fisherman’s catch that sounds like a Thai version of bouillabaisse; a Pad Prik Khing duck sautéed with curry paste, vegetables and peanuts; and a spicy fried fish with basil, jalapeño and red curry. Lots to check out.
Two desserts were offered, fried banana with ice cream ($5.95) or fresh mango with sticky rice ($6.95). They weren’t on the menu and I ordered the mango without asking the price. Fresh fruit and a creamy coconut sauce aside, I would have liked it even more if it cost less – seems high for D’Anna.
As we drove away through the neighborhood on Reindollar in Marina, the collage of commercial buildings seemed at odds with the charming D’Anna. It’s a likable, informal restaurant to which one might easily form an attachment, whether for a quick meal, take out, or hanging out.
D’ANNA THAI KITCHEN 210 Reindollar Ave., Marina • 11:30am to 3pm Mon-Fri; noon to 3pm Sat; 5pm to 9pm Mon-Sat; closed Sun. • 883-9399, http://dannathaikitchen.com/