Thai in Issaquah, of all places
With so many food options in Seattle, it’s not often where we make a point to eat in the suburbs. But there we were in Issaquah on a random Tuesday night with a group of friends, in the land of chain restaurants and big-box stores to dine at one of the best Thai places we have in Western Washington.
This would be Noodle Boat, a family-run operation nestled inside a strip mall. Dismiss the nondescript decor and the far-flung location and focus instead on the cuisine, which ports traditional Thai dishes in a family-style setting – with a few surprises.
As you can see, the menu includes a flaming chicken dish called the “Volcano Gem Hen”, soaked with Bacardi 151 and lit afire. You must be 21+ to get the full alcohol-soaked blaze. We asked the server the point of the pyrotechnics and she said, “It’s cool.” Well, there you go.
Showy display aside, the chicken itself was delicious, the meat so tender it fell off the bone while the skin was deep-fried and crispy. Lisa gave up fork and chopsticks and went after it with both hands.
We also ordered a dish I had our first visit, the Talay Hot Plate, which is a sizzling platter of shrimp, squid, scallops and vegetables. Given our group size (eight people), the goal was to create a smorgasbord of varying options, allowing us to graze over the different plates.
Some other standouts were the Ka-Pao-Rad-Khow (stir-fried ground pork with chili, bell pepper and Holy hot basil); a spicy Koa Soi (egg noodle curry); and the “Queen of Banana”, which according to the menu is “steamed banana blossom, shrimp, chicken mix chili paste, lime leaves, coconut milk, roast coconut, lemon grass, mint, onion and cilantro put in a banana leaf.” Yowza.
What also makes this place worth a visit is the friendliness of the staff. It’s a family of about a dozen, with members of all ages doing the cooking and serving. They close the entire restaurant for 6 weeks every year to go home to Thailand to acquire ingredients and visit family. One of our servers told us wistfully about her excitement at getting to go home in just a few short weeks (this year it’s April and the first half of May, so get to Noodle Boat soon or face a long wait!)
In Seattle, you hear stories of these types of places all the time, the hidden find beyond the beaten path. Someone will ask if you’ve checked out the Indian restaurant out on the Eastside in BFE (rather, Factoria). Or if you’ve discovered the Mongolian BBQ place in Mill Creek (a place my UW coworkers RAVE about). One thing we love about Twitter is how viral a new restaurant/find can become. One recommendation leads to a caravan of foodies hightailing it over the 520 Bridge in search of a new meal.
All evidence why quality dining in Puget Sound is not limited to just the 206, or the celebrity chefs now flexing their muscles in Bellevue. Better yet, hidden finds such as Noodle Boat come cheap. Our group split a ton of dishes and had several drinks, and each of us left $24 lighter in the wallet, including tip.