Why: After eight successful years in Battle Ground, family owned and operated Keo Thai has opened a second location. The casual-dining restaurant, Keo Thai West, west of the Westfield Vancouver mall, offers the same traditional Thai selections as the Battle Ground location.
Atmosphere: The dining space is understated and comfortable. Walls are painted in green and yellow with an oak chair-rail. The restaurant space is divided into two main areas with shuttered screens. Seating arrangements are all tables and chairs, allowing for two to six at a table. Decoration on the walls and a few live plants create focal points and make the restaurant cozier.
What I tried: My dining companion and I started our meal with the Keo Thai Combo Plate from the appetizers. With two BBQ Chicken Sticks, two Salad Rolls, and two Fried Rolls, we found it perfect for two people to share. It also comes with peanut sauce and sweet chili sauce for dipping, both of which were delicious with the hors d'oeuvres, which were likewise very appetizing.
We also tried the Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles) with pork and the Kaeng Kari (Yellow Curry) with chicken. The Kaeng Kari came with a bowl of white rice.
Both entrees were flavorful and satisfying. The Pad Kee Mao had a significant spicy kick to it. This dish is a stir-fry comprising wide noodles, garlic, pepper, egg, tomato, broccoli, bok choy, carrots, onions, and basil leaves in addition to the meat. Although all the ingredients were included as sizable pieces, the spicy heat and fresh basil served to join flavors into one overall experience.
Keo Thai's Kaeng Kari is a sweet, slightly spicy yellow curry made with coconut milk. Potatoes, carrots, bamboo shoots, green beans and zucchini are simmered in the sauce long enough to take on some of the sauce's curry character yet still retain some fresh vegetable firmness to their texture.
Both the pork and the chicken reminded me of the thin, shaved meats found at Mongolian grills.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: I'm looking forward to a return visit to learn if the Pad Thai matches the quality at their other location.
The Khao Pad sounded intriguing. This dish combines stir-fried rice, egg, pineapple, mixed vegetables, and your choice of either chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp.
Other observations: The staff was friendly and the food met my expectations. I thought the portions were well matched to cost. The service left some room for improvement: After being seated, I waited for about 10 minutes before my order was taken. I asked for hot tea but it was never delivered. When the waitress brought the check and I made mention of the tea, her response was to apologize and inform me it accompanies the meal without charge.
Cost: Appetizers start at $3 and top out at $8.95. The luncheon specials are served with your choice of meat or tofu, steamed rice, and a bowl of Tom Yum soup for $7.50. Soups and salads are all less than $8 except for the Po Tak (spicy hot and sour seafood soup) which is $13.95. Noodle dishes are $8 to $9.50. Rice dishes are $9.50 to $13.95. House and chef specials cost $9.95 up to $13.95. Desserts are limited to two options (a mango over sweet rice, which is seasonal, or homemade coconut ice cream) for $3.50 and $4.50.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. Noon to 9 p.m. Saturday. Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Where: 8115 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive, Suite 60, Vancouver.
Health score: Keo Thai West has received a pre-opening inspection and is scheduled to received a routine inspection in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.