Hoping to escape the heavy smoke enveloping the Rogue Valley, I headed to Grants Pass with a friend to try Thai cuisine at the Royal Barge. As we drove into the city, the smoke was still substantial and many people were wearing face masks. Meals out will come with a side of smoke for a while.
Being a relative newbie to Thai food, the extensive Royal Barge menu has many items that sound delicious and exotic at the same time. We peppered our friendly waiter with questions.
We learned that Pad Thai is a rice noodle usually stir-fried with other ingredients. It’s been called “the pizza of Thai food.”
Thai cuisine relies on combining various ingredients with a spicy edge into a harmonious dish. Many of the dishes on the menu are so spicy they’re noted with a red chili alert.
I wasn’t quite ready for full-on spicy, but will keep it in mind for my next visit.
We ordered small house salads with honey-mustard dressing as starters. It was the best salad I’ve had in a long time. The ingredients were fresh and crisp; the dressing light and tasty. I had to restrain myself from licking the bowl.
The Shrimp tempura — lightly battered and fried jumpo shrimp and fresh vegetables served with plum sauce for $9.50 — was another great start to our meal.
I moved on to Pad Cashew Nuts ($6.75) for my entree. This dish is a combination of bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrots and onions stir fried with roasted chili sauce and topped with cashews. It perfectly demonstrated the delicate blend of all the ingredients into a harmonious whole while allowing the individual flavors to be experienced.
My dining companion ordered two appetizers as her main course: Sa-Tae, chicken marinated with Thai sauce and coconut milk, grilled and skewered and dipped in plum sauce ($8.50), and deep-fried chicken and vegetable pot stickers with plum sauce ($9.50). Both were delicious.
Royal Barge’s interior features white blossoms painted on deep-red walls. The tables, chairs and tablecloths are black. During the day, the decor seems a little heavy, but at night with softer lighting, the room becomes sensual and appealing.
A mural depicting a ceremonial barge — replete with native rowers — adorns one wall. One of them is wearing horn-rimmed glasses, indicating the mural isn’t an exact historical representation.
As an exclamation point to our delicious meal, we ordered coconut ice cream with fresh mango chunks ($1.50) for dessert. The mango and coconut flavors were a tasty combination.
For me, Royal Barge was a delicious introduction to Thai cuisine. I look forward to many visits to become familiar with all types of Thai food including the formidable red chili pepper dishes.
The restaurant is located at 120 S.W. H St., in the historic downtown district just off Southeast Sixth Street. Street parking is available. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday. There’s live music from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays.
Call 541-474-6942 or find the restaurant on Facebook.
Cheryl Pearson is a freelance writer who lives in Central Point. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.