Dozens of woven bamboo lanterns float excessive above the outdoor-indoor eating patio flanked by two-story sliding glass shoji partitions. Inside, water gently tinkles into an enthralling concrete pond crammed with aquatic crops. The perfect tables are beside the aquascape that lulls diners into lingering just a bit longer.
Situated inside the previous Peter Lowell’s, the newly opened Khom Loi is a three way partnership between Lowell Sheldon and Ramen Gaijin house owners Matthew Williams and Moishe Hahn-Schuman. But it surely’s been an ambition for Williams and Hahn-Schuman for years, after travels to Thailand impressed them to host a number of pop-up dinners that includes lots of the dishes which have now made their means onto the menu.
Khom Loi, which suggests floating lantern in Thai, is an homage to the delicacies of Chiang Mai and close by Laos, with nods to central and southern Thailand. There’s nothing shy or demure concerning the spicy, candy, bitter and bitter flavors of East Asia in each one of many dishes. There’s nothing American-ized and even defined on the menu. As a substitute, it’s an immersion — typically just a little awkwardly immersive.
“It’s about having enjoyable,” Williams stated. Which means utilizing arms, rolling rice and wrapping lettuce round tidbits of meals. “Our dishes are like what you’ll discover in Thailand.”
That authenticity typically means having no actual thought what you’re consuming (until you’ve gotten a cellphone useful to search for phrases like rau ram and naam prik noom). It’s extra enjoyable, nevertheless, while you begin asking questions, corresponding to, what do you truly do with sticky rice?
“I roll it up in a ball in my arms,” Williams stated. “You dip it; you don’t pour curry on it. You will have enjoyable with it.
What do you do with the piles of lettuce, basil and mint that include a number of dishes? You wrap up morsels in them, or take a chew of 1 factor, then a chew of one other. Even for an skilled diner, it’s an journey that takes some understanding when you actually need to admire it extra deeply than at a floor stage.
However being an outsider is what’s so pleasant, particularly once we can’t journey to a far-flung place for the unique expertise. It’s about making that effort to have interaction, study one thing new and make a number of awkward errors alongside the way in which.
Or simply go to Khom Loi to eat actually good Pad Thai. Your name.
Finest Bets: Should-order dishes
Gai Tod (lemongrass fried hen), $10: The odor of lemongrass and fried lime leaves are sufficient to ship you into orbit. Sharp black pepper and chile sauce (nam jim) with two-bite fried hen items make this nearly not possible to place down, or share.
Som Tam Pu (inexperienced papaya salad), $12: Dried shrimp and fish sauce are two of my favourite issues about Thai meals, however typically it’s tough to seek out both of those salty, fishy flavors that pump up the amount of inexperienced papaya salad. Right here, unripe papaya are crunchy carriers for the tart-sweet lime fish sauce I may actually drink with a straw.
Yum Som-O (winter citrus salad), $14: That is the place the crew’s diversified culinary backgrounds shine by with a Cali-Thai aptitude. Bitter pomelo and grapefruit are tossed in fish sauce with inexperienced apple, toasted coconut, dried shrimp and fried peanuts. It’s an ideal winter dish that one way or the other tastes like summer season.
Pad Thai, $18: The true measure of any Thai restaurant is this easy noodle dish. 1. It ought to by no means be pink. 2. It shouldn’t be too candy. 3. It ought to have the “wok hay” or breath of the wok. 4. Palm sugar and tamarind ought to be included. Ketchup shouldn’t. Khom Loi will get it proper on all fronts and contains tofu, hen thighs and prawns for additional, additional credit score.
Bpet Yang (charcoal-grilled Liberty Duck breast), $18 (half) or $35 (complete): One other local-meets-Thai dish with a crispy charred exterior and buttery mushy, uncommon inside. Identical to it ought to be. The enjoyable is in mixing and matching the duck with bites of lettuce, pumpkin, lengthy beans and a inexperienced chile sauce.
Khao Niaw (sticky rice in a basket), $3: Sticky, glutenous rice has a particular place in Thai delicacies; it’s used principally to absorb sauces as you would possibly with bread. Don’t attempt to use a fork otherwise you’ll find yourself with a multitude. As a substitute, pinch off a handful, roll it right into a ball and dip it into soup or the bitter dressing of inexperienced papaya salad. Aromatic jasmine rice is healthier for absorbing curry, nevertheless.
Sundae, $10: Save room for soft-serve ice cream flavored with lemongrass and different “flavors of Thailand” (they modify). Topped with recent mango (we obtained brûléed bananas, which have been even higher), crunchy coconut peanut crumble and condensed milk, this refreshing meal-ender is studded with sticky mochi for an additional shock.
Nice Picks: significantly delish
Plaa Thawt Lat Prik (crispy complete rock cod), $32: The one cause this isn’t a Finest Guess is as a result of I understand how persons are about a complete fish staring again at you, studded with hundreds of thousands of little bones inside. I really feel you. Nonetheless, this fried rock cod is scored earlier than frying for optimum crispiness. Tamarind and chile persist with the pores and skin, and the small bites are good for consuming with chopsticks or a fork. Don’t overlook the juicy and scrumptious head — the cheeks are among the best components. Sadly we made a multitude of the poor cod and ended up consuming a number of bones. Ask for just a little assist when you’re new to consuming complete fish. We must always have.
Het Paa Naam Tok (charcoal-grilled mushroom salad), $15: For those who’re a Ramen Gaijin devotee, you’ll acknowledge these (or one thing very related) from their menu. Candy and earthy combined mushrooms get kissed by charcoal, including bitterness and depth. Toasted rice powder binds the whole lot collectively, and Thai coriander, basil and mint give the dish a pop of recent, gentle greenery.
Going again for
Kaeng Khei Whwan Hoy (inexperienced curry with clams), $20: The massman curry with wagyu quick ribs was superb, however seeing this dish with recent clams and a light-weight inexperienced curry in coconut milk made me want I’d ordered this as an alternative.
Not my jam
Tom Yung Goong Nam Khon (spicy bitter shrimp soup), $16: There’s lots to like about this showstopper, with large head-on gulf prawns, coconut milk, galangal and mushrooms, however a float of sliced limes add bitterness reasonably than depth. Fishing out large unshelled prawns with finger-poking antenna, then pulling off shells and legs on the desk is extra of a messy job than a pleasure. Massive chunks of inedible herbs additionally make it a minefield.
Wants a warning
Tua Tod Samu Prai, $5: “Thai peanut crack” had us at “crack,” however these little nuts are just for skilled heat-seekers. They’re tossed into a number of dishes the place they’re much less atomically sizzling, however the mixture of lemongrass, lime leaf and skin-on peanuts are onerous to withstand — even when it is best to.
A stunning by-the-glass wine listing highlights lighter wines that pair properly with Thai flavors, provided in 150-mL, 350-mL and 750-mL sizes. An extended, brilliantly curated bottle listing contains offbeat picks from the Basque Nation, Portugal and Hungary together with rieslings, pinot gris and a complete lot of bottles of fermented grapes we wouldn’t even attempt to spell. I want I had delved just a little deeper into these wines. There’s Thai beer, naturally, together with native ciders and brews. Don’t miss the Thai iced tea with a float of coconut cream and a touch of cardamom.
Just a few notes
Allergens: Shellfish, fish sauce and peanuts are an enormous a part of the flavour of Thailand and are in lots of the dishes. For those who’re deathly allergic to any of those, Khom Loi may not be a superb match. Gluten-free and some vegan dishes can be found.
Regardless of the frequent use of lime leaves on the menu, you gained’t discover them known as “kaffir” — a time period usually used to distinguish them from American or European limes. As a substitute these richly perfumed leaves are referred to as “makrut” as a result of the k-word is definitely a extremely offensive slur in South Africa and different areas.
Khom Loi is at 7385 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol, 707-329-6917, khomloisonoma.com. Open Wednesday by Sunday for dinner. Reservations strongly advisable. Parking may be very restricted and on the road solely. Till indoor eating returns, the restaurant is serving outside in a tent and for takeout.
Editor’s Notice: Journey, eating and wine tasting will be difficult proper now. Use our inspirational concepts to plan forward to your subsequent outing, be it this week or subsequent 12 months. For those who go to eating places, wineries, and different companies throughout the pandemic, keep in mind to name forward, make reservations, put on a masks and social distance.