I’ve never been to Thailand, so I won’t make global pronouncements, but Thai Tom in Seattle remains to this day the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten. Like, far and away the best. I will drive an hour from Olympia to Seattle just to wait in line for another hour to get lunch from this place.
Something tells me I’m not the only one. Even at 3:30 in the afternoon yesterday there was a line of people outside, clamoring for one of Thai Thom’s nineteen seats. The best seats are the stools at the bar around the open kitchen, where you feel the flames as Tom (or sometimes one of his disciples) whips up curries and pad thai in front of you. It’s street food, made on a Bangkok street cart stove that got plunked into a hole-in-the-wall in Seattle’s University district.
The pad thai is spicy and earthy and charred, worlds away from the sickly sweet masses of rice noodles you find everywhere else. The curries are symphonies of sweet and hot spices, accented by coconut milk rather than being weighed down by it. My personal favorite, Swimming Rama, is a thick cascade of garlicky, spicy peanut sauce and chicken over gleaming flash-sauteed baby spinach and bean sprouts. Did I mention the spiciness of everything? When you order any dish, you must specifiy spiciness on a scale of one to five stars. A three-star dish would easily be the spiciest thing on any other restaurant’s menu. I stick with two stars, and that still makes my sinuses drip.
A high school friend of mine introduced me to Thai Tom when I was 17, and after nine years of searching I have yet to find a Thai restaurant that even comes close. Oh, and the price? Seven bucks a dish. It is possibly the best deal on anything, anywhere.