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Richmond / Pinole – Sala Thai

Krys | May 22, 200501:23 AM

Richmond has some really odd borders. Sala Thai on San Pablo Avenue is next to Pinole and near Hilltop Mall.

This is one of the prettiest, most tranquil Thai restaurants with a contemporary decor. The food is very pleasant too.

No standouts so far, but a very good neighborhood restaurant, especially in the deep suburbs. The strip mall that Sala Thai is located in is a fast food wonderland with Quiznos, KFC, A & W and Starbucks.

The lunch plates are $6.75 (add $1 for a spring roll). The spring roll had a very crispy rice paper wrapper. I thought the plum sauce was very nice, light and not overly sweet.

The bowl of Panag Curry with generous thin slices of beef, bell pepper and fresh basil leaves was in a not overly spicy red curry sauce. Spooned over the rice it was very filling. The little iceberg salad with shredded carrot and red cabbage came with interesting vinaigrette. It was crystal clear, a little sweet and had flecks of black pepper in it.

The owner is from an area in central Thailand where the foods are cooked with a sweeter taste. She says she doesn't use peanut sauce in any of her curries, as some restaurants do, because she believes the taste is more authentic without it.

The fried bananas with ice cream was a nice dessert. The bananas had only the thinnest batter that was slightly caramelized. The four halves surrounded a scoop of mango ice cream and were drizzled with chocolate syrup. While the cool creamy house-made mango ice cream was a nice contrast to the hot bananas, it didn’t have any mango flavor to it.

The green papaya salad (Som Tum) was very fresh. The shredded papaya, carrot and diced tomatoes topped with ground peanuts sat on a huge bed of iceberg. I did see some strips of green chili peppers but if the menu had not mentioned chili, I would have thought they were bells. If there was garlic, it was hiding. Again, very fresh but not much character.

This restaurant suffers because it is nearish to Won Thai in Hercules. The dishes just didn’t have the same complexity or depth of flavor.

However, the food was good enough to make me want to try some other menu items. Also, the restaurant, I found out, specializes in seafood. It is a realitvely new restuarant, so they are still a work in progress.

Another draw is that it is such a relaxing oasis.

Care went into this stylish room where sections of walls are sponge brushed in the colors of mint/basil, papaya/mango and banana. My guess is that this is the same decorator that created Pear Street Café in Hercules. Pear Street is washed in pear colors – green, russet, Bartlett, etc. The colors in Sala Thai reflect the colors of Thai cuisine.

Each section has a single piece of artwork, Fifteen small black elephants march across three shelves on one lime colored wall. Two small Thai musical instruments are in another section. A serene bronze Buddha meditates in a corner.. There is a grid work of rosewood tinted bamboo resting on another wall.

The tables and chairs have a rosewood finish. The plum banquettes along the walls have lovely rosewood grillwork that is backlit with soft lights that glow through the carvings

Pretty pink, red, blue, green, yellow and purple paper parasol lamps of various sizes hang upside down from the ceiling. Two sections of the walls are covered with Thai artwork. The restaurant is filled with soothing Thai music.

A stunning arrangement of pink daylilies and pink alstroemeria was at the entrance.

It’s a nice atmosphere to relax with a glass of wine. I could kill an afternoon sipping wine and meditating with the bronze Buddha.

There’s about 10 interesting wines at reasonable prices. I don’t know how well the pair with Thai food, but they are good brands a good prices. A bottle of Scharffenberger Brut was selling for $25 a bottle.

For $4 - $5 a glass you could get some respectable wines like Smoking Loon Cabernet, J Lohr Riverstone chardonnay, Jewel Pinot Noir and Raymond Estate Merlot. There was saki and beer available as well.

I guess the food is like the wines. Respectable and a bit above average. Except for Won Thai, it is one of the better restaurants in the area.

Sala Thai
15501 San Pablo Avenue (near Hilltop Mall)
Richmond, California 94806

Phone: 510-223-2933

Open 7 days
11 am – 10 pm

Calling 411 can cost as much as a dollar for the phone number and directions to one restaurant.

For about sixty cents a week, get suggestions for dozens of the best Bay Area eats along with phone numbers, addresses, maps and website links. And … 411 won’t tell you the best dishes to order and which to avoid.


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