Bangkok's Atchara

I much prefer Thai to other styles of Asian cooking and frequently jump from one Thai establishment to the next looking for something that will surpass the region's formulaic Oriental fare.

A fellow gourmet suggested I try Talent's Thai treasure — Bangkok's Atchara, formerly called Bangkok's Benny.

The owner and chef, Atchara Khumsap, moved from Thailand in 1995. She made and served Thai food from a trailer along South Pacific Highway for nearly a decade with the help of her son, Gang. Atchara says her mother taught her how to cook — she learned to make spring-roll wrappers and rice noodles over an open fire in Thailand.

After her son joined the Marines in 2007, Atchara found yet another helping hand in her niece, Mook, who moved from Thailand in 2005 to learn Thai cooking from her aunt.

Atchara moved the trailer to its current location on East Main Street in Talent, where it continued its normal operation while an existing structure was torn down to make way for a new, much-larger restaurant. Now comfortably situated in the new building, Atchara works diligently as the sole chef to prepare delicious, homemade Thai dishes.

My husband and I debated whether to opt for takeout or a sit-down dinner, but after entering the trendy establishment, we chose the latter.

I tended toward the predictable and ordered the pad thai with chicken ($9.95) and Thai iced tea ($2.95). My husband was no less predictable and, enticed by fried pineapple, ordered the sweet and sour chicken, also $9.95.

Good food is not made in a hurry, and Bangkok's Atchara is no exception. Sean and I waited more than 40 minutes for our orders to arrive. Fortunately, we had been pre-warned and asked for an order of spring rolls ($7.95) to hold us over. Three spring rolls were served on an ornate and colorful plate, as are all of Atchara's dishes. The light rolls featured glass noodles, sliced carrots and cabbage. Although somewhat bland on their own, when dipped in Atchara's coconut milk and brown sugar sauce, they were a delicacy.

Other appetizers on the menu include shrimp rolls and banana wings, fried bananas wrapped in egg rolls, also $7.95.

The pad thai came garnished with clover sprouts and broccoli. The rice noodles, mixed with a chili paste, were mild at first but warmed with each bite. While I appreciated the additional zest, a more sensitive palate should be wary.

Sean's sweet and sour chicken was served with tomatoes, carrots, pineapple and cucumbers, and while he commented that he would have liked more chicken, he was wholly pleased with his meal. Portions were somewhat petite, leaving Sean to glean from my leftovers.

Each of the 27 Thai dinner entrees listed on the menu comes with five protein options — tofu, chicken, pork, beef and shrimp. Entree prices range from $9.95 to $15.95.

Produce featured in each of the dishes is purchased locally and most of it is organic, Atchara says.

She brags on her peanut sauce, which is featured in three red-curry dishes, Paneang, Thai House Special and Thai Plate Noodle.

The restaurant is not currently open for lunch but will resume lunch hours later this year. Bangkok's Atchara accepts only cash or checks. Sean and I were not aware of this and had to run to a nearby store for cash.

As we enjoyed our meals, we noted that the number of patrons coming in for takeout more than doubled the number dining in the restaurant.

Atchara's Thai takeout may be on the menu for us this weekend, too.

— Teresa Thomas

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