I have to admit, when I arrived at Krua Thai one Saturday night I was starving. Okay, not actually starving, but incredibly hungry and not the most patient.
We were seated immediately, but were also warned that the kitchen had just gotten slammed with a bunch of people coming in at once and there may be a long wait for food. Still, some places would have you stare at empty tables from a waiting area in that scenario, so I was grateful to at least be sitting.
Even though a ton of tables surrounded us, everyone seemed relaxed and happy. As it turned out, it only took about 10 minutes before our appetizers arrived, and entrees didn’t take long to follow.
Crab rangoon is just about my guiltiest pleasure, so even though their “crab cheese” with imitation crab meat didn’t sound like the most appealing thing in the world, I decided to give it a go. No regrets. Subtle cheesiness and a light touch of fish flavor came enveloped in crunchy pockets with zero oiliness. Instead of the high-fructose bomb many places serve alongside rangoon, Krua Thai delivers a sweet plum sauce that not only tasted better, but also just felt classier – as classy as a dipping sauce can feel, anyway.
The sauce served with chicken and vegetable potstickers showed some effort behind it as well: the soy base was enhanced with tiny jalapeño slices. It brought a touch of sweetness to the savory fried dumplings filled with ground chicken and dots of cabbage and green onions.
We were just finishing the starters and getting to the point of noticing the restaurant’s pretty decor when more food began appearing. First, the duck noodle soup with its lively flavors. Star anise jumps out, along with cinnamon and cilantro. Thick flat noodles offered just enough chewiness, while hearty slices of duck along with heartier duck bone broth lent the bowl a rich meatiness.
To me, the thought of Thai food conjures up noodles and curries. First, Pad Thai: the quintessential takeout dish and my first introduction to Thai food many moons ago. The tamarind soy sauce clinging to egg noodles set a subtle tone, perfect for decorating with a handful of peanuts, broccoli and crispy fried tofu. Some enhancements seemed missing though; the dish could have gone from good to great with a few more scallions and a squeeze of lime.
One of Krua’s signature dishes, Chu Chee Trout, brought a whole fried fish together with panang curry and rice. Though the fish was a bit dry, the spicy, nutty panang brought depth. Baby corn and broccoli added crunch.
As for dessert, sticky mango rice called out. However, our server sincerely explained that the mangoes were just no good anymore as the fruit’s peak season recently ended. Just like at the start of dinner, honesty was the best policy. Undersell, overdeliver. And though I never did try the sticky rice, I’d go back to try it next season, plus a whole lot more.
KRUA THAI 731 Munras Ave., Suite A, Monterey. 11am-2:30pm, 4:30-8:45pm Mon-Fri; noon-2:30pm, 4:30-8:45pm Sat. 655-9797, kruathaimonterey.com