thai tea
Image: Paul Kooiman

Boba Thai tea.

Food Styling: Tyler Rebman
Prop Stylist: Gabriel Trivelas

Bai Tong
Her days with Thai Airways prompted Chanpen Lapangkura to open Bai Tong near the airport in 1989, where she created a home away from home for top Thai toques with her authentic Siamese dishes. Since then she’s moved to more destination-worthy digs near Southcenter, and more recently added another outpost in Redmond’s Overlake, with a fluorescent-lit bar and giant-screen TVs—and the same careful fare such as the fragrant meang kum, you-stuff-’em lettuce wraps of perfectly toasted coconut, rind-on lime, ginger, and krill, all sweetened with a housemade syrup.

Who’s here Hospitable servers in traditional silk garb working under the watchful eye of Thailand’s King Bhumibol, whose portrait looms in the entry—the definitive homage to the homeland.
Don’t miss The pudding-like kluay buat chee dessert: bananas bobbing in bubbling coconut milk and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Rainy-day salvation.
Pssst The kitchen may bland-down the heat: A two-star, noodley phad sei-lew left our eyes unexpectedly dry.

Bai Tong, 16876 Southcenter Pkwy, Tukwila, 206-575-3366 and 14804 NE 24th St, Redmond, 425-747-8424; baitongrestaurant.com

Chantanee
When Chantanee swapped humble digs for a sleek lounge more befitting its 425 pedigree, some of its mom-and-pop charm got lost in the shuffle. Despite the creamy surroundings Thai-hards should note the number of dishes one won’t find elsewhere, along with real-deal touches, like crunchy shrimpies and crab paste in the papaya som tam.

Who’s here A whole lot of Microsoft’s Indian population; a whole lot of crispy garlic chicken addicts.
Don’t miss Load up on the chili sauces and serrano soys—flavor bombs so true to Thailand they’ll take you there.
Pssst The adjoining bar, Naga, is the Eastside destination for smart cocktails. Ask Evan to make you anything with rum or cachaca.

Chantanee, 601 108th Ave NE, Ste 100A, Bellevue, 425-455-3226; chantanee.com

Thai Curry Simple
The Thai couple who run this crammed lunch joint near the corner of Jackson and Fifth discovered the secret to success in their New York restaurants: Use curries made in Thailand, with native lemongrass and galangal, from grandma’s own recipes. The distinction is evident, particularly in the green curry, which you can augment with the crazy-fiery hot sauce (one is labeled “No Kidding”) only if you’re, well, not kidding. A new takeout window now serves Capitol Hill.

Who’s here Wall-to-wall wage slaves, digging the $5 lunch prices and sweating out their eye sockets.
Don’t miss Roti, the pan-fried flat bread of Thai street culture, drizzled with condensed milk and lavished with whatever sweet toppings are listed on the huge wall-size chalkboards.
Pssst Gotta have cash.

Thai Curry Simple, 406 Fifth Ave S, International District, 206-327-4838 and 1122 E Madison St, First Hill, 206-325-1494; thaicurrysimple.com

NEXT: Best Vietnamese