Man, am I behind or what...... I recall posting about the "coming soon" sign way back in May. Since that time Kirbie's even done a post on Koon Thai. I might not have even given the place a thought if not for PedMa's comments about the place. Eventually I visited, but just kinda waited on doing a post...... I'm not sure why, perhaps it was just laziness. The restaurant itself is located in the former spot of Curry House in the same mall as Sage Cake, Nijiya, Spicy House, and Okan.
I think they did a good job on the color scheme, though it is perhaps a bit too dark. I really like the mural of what else? The Koon Tree, also known as the Golden Shower Tree, the National Flower of Thailand.
I find the tables also to be a bit too small for family style eating....though I guess this encourages me to eat less.
When it's all said and done, there have three dishes at Koon that we enjoy. Unfortunately, my #1 favorite is found on the specials menu, and I've been told that it's not a permanent fixture; the Khao Kha Moo (spelled Khao Karr Moo on the menu - $7.99):
A staple of street vendors and food courts in Thailand, this Chinese influenced dish or stewed pork leg in soy sauce brings me back to Thailand....jumping off a water taxi and being carried away by the intoxicating smell of pork......
I've had this four times at Koon, and on three of them the dish has been spot on...moist, melt in your mouth tender, sweet porkiness, savory soy sauce......just delici-yoso. On my most recent visit, it was a bit dry and the flavor wasn't quite as deep. In case you need a second opinion, I took my friends Peter and Angela (and JohnL) to Koon. Since they tried this dish they've been back four times! I think Pete's worried that they may not have it on the menu any longer so he's getting his shots in while he can.
On one of my visits I asked the very nice Server, by the name of Mam where the cooks came from. Of course she replied "Thailand". After I asked whereabouts in Thailand, Issan, Lanna, Bangkok...she told me Issan, so I immediately ordered the Nam Kao Tod ($9.95), a bonafide favorite of mine. The first time I ordered this dish I requested "Thai Spicy" (that would be a 10) and the really nice young man by the name of Kef (not sure about spelling) seemed a bit worried for me...he came back twice to ask me if I was sure I wanted it that spicy. Eventually, he relented and the dish arrived.....it was about a six or seven on the Thai scale. Kef thoughtfully came back to see if I'd gone into cardiac arrest a couple of times during my meal.
Now just about everytime I see this Lao/Thai dish on the menu (and even at places like Asia Cafe where I don't) I end up ordering it. I've had it at LOS, Sang Dao, and Vientiane Restaurant in Garden Grove. Heck, I've even had in Vientiane as in the capital of Laos. This version was a bit different from what I'm used to. It's very wet, like a Larb, the prevailing flavors are the sour if lime and galangal. It is quite different, but not bad...I still love the crunch of the deep fried rice, though the strong flavors don't allow for much else to come through.
The Missus's favorite dish here is the Pla Sahm Rod ($12).
While not as good as the version at Sab E Lee in Santee, the fish is usually fried to crunchy perfection. The sauce is a bit too heavy in the tamarind department, making it a bit too far on the puckery-sour scale for our tastes. But for $12, this is a good value.
As for the rest of what I've tried:
The duck noodle soup ($6.95), was a bit weak in the anise-cassia flavor department, but had some decent heat.
The duck in this dish should have warned me off the Spicy Duck Salad ($9.95), which wasn't very spicy (ordered at an eight), nor did it have much duck flavor.
The Stewed Pork Feet ($6.99) another item from the specials menu had a nice slight sweet soy sauce flavor, but the pigs feet weren't cook to the nice, tender, gelatinous texture I enjoy.
The Moo Ping (grilled pork) wasn't anything to write home about either, though the dipping sauce was nice, if a tad too sweet.
I'd have preferred the pork have more flavor and the sauce less so. The sticky rice that accompanied the dish (which is strange since this is an appetizer, how would four people, or even two share the sticky rice) was overcooked.
The Kra Pao Moo Krob (on the menu as Ka Pao Moo Krob - $9) had all of those familiar Thai flavors; the basil, sweetness, a savory fish sauce.....
The heat was nice, but on the mild side. The pork is more chewy, like a crunchy jerky, not an unpleasant texture for me. This was a decent dish, though my eating buddies, especially John didn't think too much of it.
The worse dish I had at Koon, was one that I usually use to determine the stir-fry skills of a cook. It is the deceivingly simple Pad See Ew.
This was, by far, the worst dish I had at Koon Thai. Not only was it terribly bland, but the noodles were unevenly cooked. It actually looked much more grey than the photo indicates.
Overall, other than experiencing some really bad and rude service during one visit (sorry if we interrupted your social hour young lady), service has been friendly and accommodating. This seems to be one of those places that does a couple of dishes pretty well, which is not a bad thing at all.
Koon Thai Kitchen
3860 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111