(This is the same report/review I did for Yelp (with a few additions)...I didn't see any prohibitions against reposting a review of my own from another site when I checked the etiquette page..so if I am breaking a "Chowhound rule", please let me know! (-: ) This is my very first chowhound review, so be gentle!
After hearing so many good things about the SEA Thai restaurant in Petaluma, but not having had a chance to check it out, I was excited to learn that another "outpost" had opened up closer to home. As of this evening, they have been open less than a month. Based on the fact that it was a Monday evening, and the place was full, I think they will be quite a success.
The interior design is beautiful and calming. What was once a not-so-pleasant and oftentimes dumpy feeling spot (when it was the EastWest Cafe)has been transformed...walking up to the front entrance, we were greeted by a beautiful fountain, gurgling away peacefully, and once inside, the dark burgundy walls decorated with art brought in from the natural world (driftwood-coloured twigs, with seed pods and moss scattered throughout), candles, and warm but not overly bright lighting created a sense of cozy, clean, refined elegance. The space is a bit odd...shaped like a backwards "L", and with the high ceilings it can get a bit noisy when there is a full crowd within. I didn't find it too obnoxious though, and was able to have a decent conversation with my tablemates without having to yell or even raise my voice that much.
We were seated promptly, and even though they were quite busy for a Monday night (the waitress mentioned that they weren't expecting such a crowd) the service was prompt and efficient. We were sitting towards the back of the restaurant and I never felt ignored...waters were refilled often, the waitress checked in on us enough to be helpful and not obnoxious.
We decided to order the "Starter's Parade" appetizer ($18, but you get twelve things) to get a good taste of everything. It included golden spring rolls, crispy prawns, chicken satay, lamb satay, mummy chicken, and "little basket" which is crisp egg noodles, shallots, cilantro, tomatoes, carrots and cashews all wrapped up in a lettuce leaf. A bit of peanut sauce, some sort of house-made sweet clear sauce, and a bit of cucumber "relish" were included for dipping. It was presented beautifully and tasted even better. The satays were cooked perfectly...chicken was a bit juicy and not too dry, the lamb was a treat (I've never had lamb satay before). The fried things (rolls, prawns) were light and not oily at all, and perfectly crisp. The flavours were crisp and clean. Next up was the Princess Green Papaya Salad: tomato, green bean, tamarind, pam sugar, romaine lettuce ($8). Large portion. Wonderful. Yummyummy in my tummy. The tamarind flavour was not overpowering...all the flavours were very balanced...the whole thing was clean, refreshing and fun to eat! Presented with two lettuce leaves, you piled the salad into the leaf, and ate it, taco-style, with your hands. Nearly as good as getting to play with your food. Two main dishes for the table were ordered with brown rice: Pad Thai ($13) and Garlic Delight Beef: in spicy asian soy glaze with onion, green onion and cilantro ($12). Both were excellent. Again, nice portion size, beautiful presentation, well-balanced flavours. Everything was dancing across my taste buds. Nothing felt too heavy or oily or overpowering.
Dessert is a must-have here. We had four choices of sweet delights(all $6): sauted pineapple slices with coconut ice cream, banana fritter with coconut ice cream, raspberry pinot noir sorbet and..bah..I'm completely blanking on the fourth dessert. Among our table, we tasted the three I can remember...and they were all amazing. Portions were perfect. The sorbet was an intense spoonful of dark red berry and pinot heaven. The coconut ice cream melted in my mouth and took me to another place. The banana fritter was light and creamy and the batter was crispy and not too oily or thick. Apparently both the sorbet and the coconut ice cream recipes are the chef's creation, but not made inhouse at the moment. He has a San Rafael ice cream and sorbet maker creating his lovely recipes.
The wine/beer/drink list was impressive. Quite a few wines available by the glass and even more by the bottle. Thai iced coffee and tea are available as well as lychee nut tea which I have never heard of before. They have a nice selection of loose leaf tea (I think at least seven), which is unusual to see and a pleasant surprise. I saw a drink that I hadn't heard of before, "Dry Soda"...which is, according to their website: "all-natural, non-caffeinated, flavored with fruit and herb extracts, and sweetened with a small amount of pure cane sugar." SEA Thai had three flavours available: lavender, lemongrass and kumquat. I tried the lavender. Tasty, light, refreshing and it went very well with the thai food flavours. Coffee is available too (served in a french press, which always brings a smile to my face) and apparently they get their beans from Sleepless Coffee which looks to be out of Seattle (when I did a websearch). I let them know about Ecco Caffe (http://www.eccocaffe.com), which is a local (Sonoma county) roaster who does amazing things with organic and fair trade beans. Maybe they will take a look at switching to an even more local business with great product.
I asked our waitress if there was a difference between the two restaurants, and apparently SEA Thai in Petaluma is focused more on simply Thai food, and this spot has a focus on Thai influenced by the places nearby, such as Japan. They also use organic and sustainable products whenever possible.
Excellent, beautiful and tasty experience. I plan on being a regular.
Hopefully they will have their website up soon so people can take a gander at their menu. Another review of the place (before they had their liquor license and right after they opened) can be found here: http://biteclub.pressdemocrat.com/def...
Sea Thai Bistro
2323 Sonoma Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95405