By Ella Lawrence
Editor's note: First Bite is a new concept in restaurant writing. We invite you to come along with our writers as they--informed, intelligent eaters like yourselves--have a simple meal at an area restaurant, just like you do. This is not a go-three-times, try-everything-on-the-menu report; rather, this is a quick snapshot of a single experience.
The tiny, unassuming Bay Thai restaurant in San Rafael is easily overlooked on Fourth Street's busy mecca of pubs, restaurants and sushi bars. But diners with an eye and a taste for classic, fresh Thai food are well-advised to take a step into the six-table room (don't trip on your way up to the door!) and ready themselves for a delicious experience.
We began our meal with tod mun ($5.95), a deep-fried fish cake served with cucumber salad. Our Western palates expected something like a fancy-pants crab cake, maybe wrapped in an egg-roll wrapper. The round, fried medallions of unidentified fish/sponge/sausage weren't as much to our liking as the rest of the meal, although the accompanying cucumber salad was delicious.
The pra ram ($7.25), described as "sliced chicken with simmered spinach in peanut sauce," was certainly a menu highlight. Mounds of market-fresh, bright-green spinach and broccoli covered with a sweetly spiced peanut sauce arrived on the plate, with slices of tasty, nongreasy chicken and chunks of peanuts to finish off the dish.
My personal favorite was the seafood green curry ($8.50), a curry of prawns, calamari and scallops, with coconut milk, bamboo shoot, baby corn, chili and sweet basil. This spicy bowl of squid tentacles, fresh vegetables and big prawns combined the classic elements of Thai curry; the sweetness of the cooked basil balanced the tart lemongrass perfectly, and the butteriness of the coconut milk accompanied the richness of the seafood quite well. My only complaint was that there was only one scallop, and it was so fresh and cooked so perfectly that I wanted more.
We finished the meal with tempura-fried bananas and coconut ice cream ($4.90), and although we'd just been sighing in near oversatiation, we quickly found our dessert stomachs and made short work of the enamel bowl's contents. This discerning critic has had plenty of fried bananas and ice cream, and can heartily recommend Bay Thai's as among the best. Perhaps it's a personal weakness for coconut ice cream.
Bay Thai, 809 Fourth St., San Rafael. Open for lunch and dinner, Monday-Saturday; Sunday, dinner only. Cash only; no credit cards accepted. 415.458.8845.
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From the June 22-28, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.
© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.