Editor's note: Here is today's dining report. Drop-In Dining is a report about a new or new-to-us restaurant published in the TNT's Friday GO section. Reporters drop in unannounced and sample the food, on the TNT's dime, then report to you what the scene and food was like. Have a suggestion for a drop-in dining feature? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where: 10224 196th St. Court E., No. 307, Graham; 253-847-3853; Thaimekong.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
Price range: $-$$ (entrees under $3o)
By Craig Hill
The scene: While the décor in some Thai restaurants can be gaudy, Mekong Thai's style is subtle but still feels authentic. Most of the accoutrements are carved from wood, including several small elephants. The bamboo blinds on the windows keep with the theme.
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A large plasma television hanging above the counter at the east end of the restaurant displays pictures from Thailand. The only thing that didn't seem to fit the Thai décor was the quiet saxophone music playing in the background. The restaurant is kid-friendly with paper covers over the white tablecloths.
Type of food: As its name implies, Mekong Thai serves a wide variety of Thai food. In other words if you like noodles, rice, curries, coconut milk and spicy food you'll be in heaven. And if you have peanut allergies, stay in the parking lot. Mekong Thai's selections range from pan-fried rice noodle dishes, to curries to barbecued chicken, pork, short ribs and salmon.
Menu highlights: The menu is stocked with more than 50 traditional Thai food favorites, not including the daily specials. The dozen appetizers on the menu include such choices as calamari ($7.95), fried prawns ($7.95) and spring rolls ($6.95). The drink menu is an exotic adventure, including Thai ice tea ($2.95), a selection of bubble teas and coconut juice ($3.95) served in a coconut. The dessert menu has only four options, none of which you'll find at Denny's: Mango with sweet rice ($5.95), fried yams ($4.95), a coconut pastry called Khanom Krok ($6.95) and friend bananas ($5.95).
People in the kitchen: Somsack and Santisouk Vannalath opened Mekong Thai in July 2007.
"We just recognized the need for a Thai restaurant in the area," said Santisouk, who goes by Vicki.
Santisouk, from Laos, and Somsack, from Thailand, have made the restaurant a family affair. Santisouk's aunt, Somphone, is one of the cooks and Santisouk's sister and nephew also help at the restaurant.
Dishes sampled: Our group of four took a wide sample from the menu. We started with a strawberry bubble tea, coconut juice, a Thai iced tea and appetizers. Our appetizer sampler plate ($9.95) included skewered chicken marinated in coconut milk, fried calamari rings and spring rolls. The plate came with chili-garlic, peanut and pineapple dipping sauces.
For entrees, we ordered Duck Curry ($12.99) and Avocados Prawns ($11.99) from the daily specials menu. The bowl of curry was so large we took enough home for a second meal. We also tried the All Village Combo ($15.95) and Mango Delight ($8.95) from the regular menu.
The combo was a sample from each of the barbecued meats with pineapple and chili-garlic sauces and sides of rice and steamed vegetables. The Mango Delight was tagged with "A must try!" notation on the menu and the sautéed mango, vegetables and chicken topped with basil did not disappoint. While we ordered the Delight with chicken, it's also available with tofu ($7.95), shrimp ($9.95) or salmon ($10.95).
At this point, we were all stuffed, but we splurged on dessert anyway, sharing orders of fried bananas with coconut ice cream and Khanom Krok. The bananas were wrapped in coconut batter and the Khanom Krok tasted like mini-coconut pancakes with a creamy filling.
Service: Our waitress was relaxed despite a full house that seemed to keep her quite busy. We took quite awhile to peruse the menu, and she gave us plenty of time and didn't rush us.
Most unexpected moment: Our 2