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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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July 29, 2008 7:29 AM

Thai-ing one on at Pen Thai

Posted by Nancy Leson

Now that Pen Thai's sister-restaurant Chantanee is closed (soon to re-open in swankier Bellevue digs) it's slammed more than usual here in charming old-town Bothell. I can certainly see why. The contemporary copper-toned design is as appealing as what's on the plate, and Pen offers everything from an expansive wine list to fancy cocktails to my finger-food favorite miang kum -- bits and bites of lime, coconut, dried shrimp, fresh ginger among them, meant to be wrapped in spinach leaves for a festival of flavors:

Sure, you may go on about the signature crispy garlic chicken or the emerald curry with pork, but what about the crisp, moist "Golden Duck" sizzled and sauced tableside -- just like at one of those old-school French restaurants?

And howzabout the classic Thai beef salad with its perfectly charred edges?

Or daily specials like Dungeness crab fried rice -- delicate and airy yet still packing heat:

My friend Gary Thai'd one on, too, and got drunk on these drunken noodles:

And the only thing we weren't nuts about (by comparison, anyway) was this veg-smothered whole-fried rainbow trout:

You been? What do you think? And if not, what's keeping you?

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Posted by Darby

1:13 PM, Jul 29, 2008

Love Pen Thai! It's my favorite Thai place outside of the U-district.

Posted by Sean Zinsley

2:02 PM, Aug 01, 2008

Pen Thai is very sub-par - at best. If you like American version of Thai food, then you will like it. If you are looking for an equivalent to food in Thailand, avoid it. You will want to visit Siam on Broadway, Racha Thai in Queen Anne, or Typhoon in Redmond. There are MANY restaurants offering better (pure authentic) Thai food other than Pen Thai and Chantanee.

Posted by Country

7:29 PM, Aug 02, 2008

My wife and I are Thai and we try to adhere to the old rule not to say anything bad about another. Well, what can we say good about Chantanee? Actually we know the owner is very smart because they make Thai food exactly the way Americans like it. But in fact for Thai people this food is not even Thai.

Posted by Farengdad

3:27 AM, Aug 15, 2008

We agree with you that Pen Thai in Bothell is a great Thai restaurant, well worth the trip and family friendly. Let the wait staff help you with excellent Thai food choices, spice levels and the delicious high quality cocktails. Our family is Thai/American all speaking both languages. We are blessed to spend half our time at our Bellevue home and half our time at our Thai home and are always amused by clientele who debate what is "real" Thai food. Two suggestions for you specialists... 1. consider the restaurant business of giving clients what they want and will eat and 2. All you need to do is tell the wait staff that you prefer a Thai style preparation and the cooks will be quite happy to provide it... do be prepared for less protein, more vegetables and a spice level that most dinners in Bellevue and Bothell won't like. We imagine that most Americans would prefer the dishes as offered and if you know what you're doing you can always add spices from the condiment trays on every table. In Thailand we've found about 100 ways to serve Phad Thai and about 1,000 ways to make Som Tom.... suit yourself ! We enjoy Pen Thai and think you will too!

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