The story: Opened late last year, Daughter Thai Kitchen has brought upscale Southern Thai cuisine to the Montclair neighborhood in the Oakland hills. From the same people behind Farmhouse Kitchen and Lanna Thai in San Francisco, the focus here is Southern and spicy.
Why I went: Recently we planned a foodie dinner on a Saturday with my favorite dining partners Christina of East Bay Dish, Sandy of Foodhoe’s Foraging, and Brenda of Bites and Bourbon (and their respective partners), and we all wanted to check out how authentically fiery the food can be in this neighborhood that is notably non-Thai.
The vibe: The night we went happened to be the full moon celebration, and the restaurant was definitely decked out for a party. The servers, some with painted faces, welcomed us with plastic leis and the festive mood was every where. You almost felt like you’re at a beach shack in Bangkok, and I get the feeling that even without the excuse of the full moon, the people are always having fun here.
The booze: A bit tiki hut, the cocktail menu definitely plays on Asian flavors, like the Thai Lady ($12) that I tried made with gin, basil, cucumber and sparkling wine. It was a delicate lady (not that strong) and a bit sweet. But everyone at the table fawned over Brenda’s order of the Thai Michelada ($11), which is simply a Singha Thai beer, but served with spicy valentina and soy sauce with a garnishing of crispy pork belly on skewers (for an extra $3). It’s a place like Daughter Thai to combine pork belly with alcohol because there are no rules to the night ahead.
Side note: There’s also a selection of beer and wine.
The menu: The two-page menu had an extensive list of appetizers and starters, then curries, entrees, and noodle dishes. There’s a slant toward seafood, but still a lot of options that can sometimes feel overwhelming to maneuver. Dishes that border on fusion (there’s only a few) like the Daughter Thai Taco ($11.50) sides with the stereotypical sweet-sour sauce dripping on chicken nuggets in a roti wrap. The more authentic dishes like a yellow curry ($11.80) with chicken and potato was balanced and satisfying.
We ordered the seafood platter ($33) from the specials menu, and while impressive with its array of shellfish and greens, there was hardly any flavor or seasoning. It really felt like a crab boil where all you want is fresh seafood with their natural flavors. The aggressive and true Southern Thai spices come in the Gang Tai Pia ($22.50) or southern fish curry, which is a pickled fish stew in turmeric, lemongrass and exotic herbs, filled with squash and Thai eggplant and green beans. There’s no coconut milk in this type of curry, which really provides no options to cool your mouth from the heat that innocently enough welcomes you to eat more but then burns you in the back of your mouth.
Thankfully, with our large group we got to try a variety of other dishes, including a tasty and savory rice salad or nam khao tod ($12), which reminded me of the Laotian-style crispy rice salad with pork sausages and eaten with fresh herbs and lettuce, or a delicate crab fried rice ($22.95) that’s served with bone broth.
For dessert, we had a surprise treat when the restaurant brought over its special Luk Sao Platter ($26) on the house (sometimes it’s so obvious we’re food bloggers at our table). This tray of treats included warm sticky rice with coconut sorbet, a croissant bread pudding with caramel sauce, fresh watermelon, and my favorite of a chocolate molten cake with heavy cream.
My favorite dish: Some of my favorite dishes were the simplest like the side order of Chinese gai lan, which was nicely sauteed with interesting flavors but still allowing the greens to shine. But the table’s favorite dish was the starter of sai qua or Southern Thai sausage ($8.75) that was a grilled pork sausage with herbs and spices that had a nice savory flavor.
The last bite: Daughter Thai Kitchen offers up what seems like authentic Thai cuisine as can be found in the Bay Area. Not every dish may be for you, but with such an extensive menu you’re sure to find something to enjoy. And the friendly service has made this a popular spot for the neighborhood, bringing a mixed crowd of diners imagining they’re swept away to Thailand.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Daughter Thai Kitchen, 6118 Medau Place, Oakland. PH: 510.823.2354. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.daughterthai.com
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