TNT Diner

First-bite report: Ayothaya Thai Restaurant in Frederickson

Frederickson’s sleepy restaurant scene hasn’t registered much with me, but that was before the April opening of Ayothaya Thai Restaurant. Frederickson, in case you’ve never been, is that area sandwiched between Spanaway and South Hill/Graham. (It’s probably best known as home to a Boeing plant.)

Frederickson’s looking less of a restaurant desert now, with the opening of Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza last year and Ayothaya this year.

Ayothaya’s original restaurant has operated for more than a decade in Puyallup’s South Hill in a small space inside a strip mall that always looks to me like it’s going to be gobbled by the bigger strip mall just behind it (the one with Best Buy and Bed, Bath and Beyond). Don’t let the strip-mall location dissuade you; this is one of the best Thai restaurants in the area. They’re known for producing fragrant curries, snappy stir fries and sauces heady with galanga, ginger, lemongrass and those devilishly hot tiny Thai chilis.

The Frederickson Ayothaya is an addition, not a subtraction for the Puyallup store. It will remain open.

Ayothaya’s opening was months delayed, the result of permit delays on the much larger Frederickson space built into a new space inside the Canyon Crossing shopping center. After a first-bite visit, I’m ready to declare it was worth the wait. The restaurant is bigger, brighter and can comfortably fit more diners than the smaller Puyallup Ayothaya.

The front entry looked quite similar to the entry in Puyallup, but that’s where the similarities ended, except for that same gilded artwork flickering throughout the dining room. What I didn’t find so alluring was the industrial ductwork and super tall ceilings — the most annoying restaurant trend of the moment — which I’m speculating will translate to a lot of restaurant noise at capacity.

A single visit for a first-bite report showed the staff was just as competent, friendly and detail-oriented as the original location. You’ll recognize a few faces from the other restaurant, if you’re a regular. Dishes arrived quickly, water glasses remained filled and table check-ins were frequent. What’s still so surprising to me is how the restaurant keeps its food so fairly priced, considering the quality. While many Thai restaurants have upped prices to the $12 (or higher) range, Ayothaya keeps its entrees in the sweet spot at $9.59. And, yes, that price does include the rice. The rice upcharge of $1.50 or more at other restaurants annoys me for so many reasons.

I dug into a sauteed Chinese eggplant dish with tofu ($9.59) and renewed my appreciation for the kitchen’s skilled hand with balancing ginger, garlic and lemongrass. A calamari salad ($8.99), served warm like larb, combined tender calamari rings with a fiery roasted chili dressing carrying a salty-sour seesaw of fish sauce and lime. Sauteed pork in phad ped ($9.59) screamed the spiciest with a red curry sauce that accurately reflected those four stars I requested. Yes, the restaurant is worth the drive.