Chada Thai restaurant highlights best of Bangkok
By Tara Nelson
George Probert and his wife, Suchada, of Lynden, were looking to move to Alaska after being forced to close their Thai Steakhouse restaurant in Birch Bay last year. But when an acquaintance suggested a space that was available on Peace Portal Drive in Blaine, they decided they would stay and give the restaurant business another chance.
The building was once home to Bella Marina, but the owners moved their operation to Bellingham’s harbor earlier this year (2615 South Harbor Loop Drive).
Probert said they liked the location with sweeping water views of Drayton Harbor and the loyal customer base in Blaine and Birch Bay they already had.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the acceptance of people here,” he said. “They’ve been coming in like they’ve found their long lost friend. It’s wonderful here, we’re very happy.”
The couple also revamped their menu, thanks to the help of Jay Suphannakul, a former Portland, Ore., restaurant owner who recently moved to Whatcom County and met Suchada and George.
Suphannakul, whose former Hillsborough restaurant, The Thai Princess, was given a stellar review by The Oregonian several years ago, said he moved to Washington because he prefers working and living in smaller towns.
“People here are so nice in Blaine,” he said. “It’s a better quality of life here.”
The trio formed a business partnership – Suchada, LLC – and also enlisted the help of Supit Kingthong, a 20-year chef at the Hilton Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, after he met her in Seattle last year.
The menu is extensive and boasts some unusual and interesting items.
On a recent visit with friends, we tried several dishes that strayed away from the standard, safe choices such as Pad Thai (#36) or coconut curry, and ventured into a gingered breast of duck ($18.95) that was tender and delicious and came with a homemade sauce of fresh ginger and mixed vegetables; the Pla Tod Rad Prik (#48), a deep fried whole trout topped with a pungently sweet and spicy sauce; larb gai, a cold dish of minced chicken with lime, chili, red onion and mint leaves and served with lettuce leaves; and an appetizer plate of Thai potstickers, chicken satay, spring rolls and crab Rangoon, a deep fried wonton filled with crab and cream cheese that I’m sure was not low-fat or calorie-free.
We also tried the Tom Kah, a tangy coconut soup, as well as the house seafood special ($16.95), an assortment of shrimp, mussels, squid and plump sea scallops stir-fried together with chili sauce, lemon grass, onions, bell pepper and basil leaves.
The soup was hot and pungent with bright notes of galangal, a type of ginger, chilis and lemongrass, but it wasn’t overpowering.
The seafood in the house special also tasted fresh and not overcooked. Anyone who has ever clamped their jaws down on a piece of rubbery, overcooked calamari knows there is a fine line between doneness and done horribly wrong and therefore should be able to appreciate this culinary achievement that so many restaurants seem to have difficulty with.
I love calamari, but I admit the Western-minded side of me has always been a little squeamish over the sight of those little deep-fried tenacles. I was similarly hesitant at the sight of the decoratively-cut squid pieces, which I thought resembled more of a bristly, white Christmas tree, but I went for the challenge anyway and was happy I did. Kingthong knows how to cook a squid to perfection, a feat that rightly deserves an honorary position within the local structure of government.
On a second, lunchtime visit, I tried my universal favorite – the spicy basil with tofu ($7.95 for the vegetarian version) – but had to ask for stir-fried eggplant. Suphannakul, who could possibly be one of the most genuinely polite waiters I have ever met, happily accommodated my request.
The spicy basil sauce was a tad sweet for my tastes, but the vegetables were cooked to a perfect al dente crispness and overall, the food was delicious.
Also fabulous is Suphannakul’s coconut ice cream ($4.50). The cold, creamy confection is handmade and comes on top of a molten mass of faintly sweet purple rice with a nutty flavor.
Probert, a self-proclaimed ‘independent thinker’ who once ran for Alaska’s 17th district on the independent ticket, said his future plans for the restaurant may include expanding the menu to offer fish and chips and clam chowder.
Chada Thai is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. They are open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. and are located at 825 Peace Portal Drive in Blaine. Their phone number is 332-3267.