Favorite

Your Royal Highness 

New establishment brings Thai food to new heights

It's about damn time. Colorado Springs has had fine Thai restaurants in the 10 years I've lived here, but nothing outstanding. Not until now, with Royal Thai opening at the southwest corner of Austin Bluffs and Academy (in what used to be McKenna's).

You know you're in for something different as soon as you walk in the door. A sign directs you upstairs to the main dining room, and it feels rather rem-iniscent of walking into a palace. It feels opulent and regal without being stuffy. The walls are painted a glorious shade of golden yellow, and the high ceiling makes everything light and open. You can be seated at traditional tables, or opt for the shoes-off option and sit on richly embroidered pillows and mats at low tables. (Don't worry, there's an opening beneath the tables for you to stretch out your legs, if sitting cross-legged all night doesn't appeal.)

This restaurant is fairly new, so don't be afraid to ask questions of your server. They are happy to answer them and direct you to their own menu favorites. If you have anyone sensitive to heat in your party, be sure to ask about heat levels, because they aren't clearly indicated on the menu.

Don't skip the appetizers. You can get pork or chicken satay, Thai-style calamari or crab rangoon, but I'd suggest going farther out on the culinary limb. The basil roll ($5.95 for two large rolls) is similar to a Vietnamese spring roll, wrapped in softened rice paper and not fried. Skinny rice noodles, tiny shrimp, lettuce and shreds of the freshest basil are wrapped and served with a sauce that is out of this world. It's a tart, piquant sauce, with a touch of sweetness -- very light and a perfect foil for the roll. The Thai egg rolls ($4.95 for five) are thin and crispy, served with a thicker, sweeter sauce than the basil roll. The Tao Hoo Tord ($4.95) is a must for anyone who thinks they don't like tofu. You get a plate full of deep-fried squares of tofu, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, with a lightly spicy dipping sauce. My 3-year-old tried to monopolize the entire plate.

There are several salads that I haven't had a chance to try yet. First on my list will be Crying Tiger Steak Salad ($6.95), with broiled beef tenderloin in a chili-lime dressing, tossed with onions, fish sauce, hot pepper, roasted rice and fresh vegetables. But with the cold weather we've had lately, I settled for Gang Jerd Soup ($6.95). A huge bowl came to the table, aromatic broth sending up fragrant steam, cradling tender chunks of chicken, shrimp, silky soft cubes of tofu, mushrooms and a large portion of thin, chewy crystal noodles. The snow peas were particularly fresh and crunchy, not surprising given they were added after the soup was ladled into the bowl.

Wander through the menu and you can't go wrong. One of the chef's specials is Kang Bai Yor (Nonie), a traditional yellow Southern Thai curry ($8.95). We sampled it with salmon (you could also choose catfish or chicken). It was tasty and hot, redolent with coconut milk and fresh vegetables. The Kang Pha' (Jungle Curry, $7.95), however, is curry on a whole different dimension of being. It has a distinctive and strong aroma, and if you ask for it hot, you had better be prepared to break a sweat. The clear, spicy broth is full of chilies, grachai (a less potent form of ginger), garlic and whole small stems of fresh pepper berries. It comes with chicken, pork, beef or shrimp, and is full of broccoli, snow peas, green beans, mushrooms, onions, green and red bell peppers ... and I'm probably forgetting something. This is not for the faint of heart, palate or stomach.

On the milder side are dishes like Khoa Pad Pineapple ($7.95), a non-greasy fried rice dish full of fresh pineapple, which adds an interesting but not overly sweet note, tender chunks of chicken and Chinese sausage (more like a dried sausage than an Italian sausage). The Pad See-Iew ($6-$7.95) is a wonderful comfort food, a dish brimming with pan-fried wide noodles with Chinese broccoli, shrimp (in our version) and a light, savory gravy. There are several variations of Pad Thai ($5-$7.95), which combine your choice of protein with skinny rice noodles, bean sprouts, tofu and peanuts. The one I sampled was very mild, and I would probably ask to have it a little spicier next time. Not so the Pad Kee-Mao ($5-7.95). The thin rice noodles with your choice of tofu, pork, beef, chicken, shrimp or squid are accented with fine shreds of basil leaves, and are deftly seasoned to bring out the almost licorice accent of the basil. It's tingly on the tongue.

Among other still-to-be-tried: The lamb curry and the red curry roast duck intrigue me, and so do the hot-and-sour seafood soup, the fried rice with chili paste, the garlic and black pepper shrimp or squid, and the Royal Thai Beef Jerky.

And I'm sure one of these days I'll get to the dessert section of the menu. Maybe.

It's about damn time. Colorado Springs has had fine Thai restaurants in the 10 years I've lived here, but nothing outstanding. Not until now, with Royal Thai opening at the southwest corner of Austin Bluffs and Academy (in what used to be McKenna's).

You know you're in for something different as soon as you walk in the door. A sign directs you upstairs to the main dining room, and it feels rather rem-iniscent of walking into a palace. It feels opulent and regal without being stuffy. The walls are painted a glorious shade of golden yellow, and the high ceiling makes everything light and open. You can be seated at traditional tables, or opt for the shoes-off option and sit on richly embroidered pillows and mats at low tables. (Don't worry, there's an opening beneath the tables for you to stretch out your legs, if sitting cross-legged all night doesn't appeal.)

This restaurant is fairly new, so don't be afraid to ask questions of your server. They are happy to answer them and direct you to their own menu favorites. If you have anyone sensitive to heat in your party, be sure to ask about heat levels, because they aren't clearly indicated on the menu.

Don't skip the appetizers. You can get pork or chicken satay, Thai-style calamari or crab rangoon, but I'd suggest going farther out on the culinary limb. The basil roll ($5.95 for two large rolls) is similar to a Vietnamese spring roll, wrapped in softened rice paper and not fried. Skinny rice noodles, tiny shrimp, lettuce and shreds of the freshest basil are wrapped and served with a sauce that is out of this world. It's a tart, piquant sauce, with a touch of sweetness -- very light and a perfect foil for the roll. The Thai egg rolls ($4.95 for five) are thin and crispy, served with a thicker, sweeter sauce than the basil roll. The Tao Hoo Tord ($4.95) is a must for anyone who thinks they don't like tofu. You get a plate full of deep-fried squares of tofu, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, with a lightly spicy dipping sauce. My 3-year-old tried to monopolize the entire plate.

There are several salads that I haven't had a chance to try yet. First on my list will be Crying Tiger Steak Salad ($6.95), with broiled beef tenderloin in a chili-lime dressing, tossed with onions, fish sauce, hot pepper, roasted rice and fresh vegetables. But with the cold weather we've had lately, I settled for Gang Jerd Soup ($6.95). A huge bowl came to the table, aromatic broth sending up fragrant steam, cradling tender chunks of chicken, shrimp, silky soft cubes of tofu, mushrooms and a large portion of thin, chewy crystal noodles. The snow peas were particularly fresh and crunchy, not surprising given they were added after the soup was ladled into the bowl.

Wander through the menu and you can't go wrong. One of the chef's specials is Kang Bai Yor (Nonie), a traditional yellow Southern Thai curry ($8.95). We sampled it with salmon (you could also choose catfish or chicken). It was tasty and hot, redolent with coconut milk and fresh vegetables. The Kang Pha' (Jungle Curry, $7.95), however, is curry on a whole different dimension of being. It has a distinctive and strong aroma, and if you ask for it hot, you had better be prepared to break a sweat. The clear, spicy broth is full of chilies, grachai (a less potent form of ginger), garlic and whole small stems of fresh pepper berries. It comes with chicken, pork, beef or shrimp, and is full of broccoli, snow peas, green beans, mushrooms, onions, green and red bell peppers ... and I'm probably forgetting something. This is not for the faint of heart, palate or stomach.

On the milder side are dishes like Khoa Pad Pineapple ($7.95), a non-greasy fried rice dish full of fresh pineapple, which adds an interesting but not overly sweet note, tender chunks of chicken and Chinese sausage (more like a dried sausage than an Italian sausage). The Pad See-Iew ($6-$7.95) is a wonderful comfort food, a dish brimming with pan-fried wide noodles with Chinese broccoli, shrimp (in our version) and a light, savory gravy. There are several variations of Pad Thai ($5-$7.95), which combine your choice of protein with skinny rice noodles, bean sprouts, tofu and peanuts. The one I sampled was very mild, and I would probably ask to have it a little spicier next time. Not so the Pad Kee-Mao ($5-7.95). The thin rice noodles with your choice of tofu, pork, beef, chicken, shrimp or squid are accented with fine shreds of basil leaves, and are deftly seasoned to bring out the almost licorice accent of the basil. It's tingly on the tongue.

Among other still-to-be-tried: The lamb curry and the red curry roast duck intrigue me, and so do the hot-and-sour seafood soup, the fried rice with chili paste, the garlic and black pepper shrimp or squid, and the Royal Thai Beef Jerky.

And I'm sure one of these days I'll get to the dessert section of the menu. Maybe.

  • New establishment brings Thai food to new heights

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Events

More by MB Partlow

Top Viewed Stories

All content © Copyright 2014, The Colorado Springs Independent   |   Website powered by Foundation