Krungthep Thai Cuisine

Look out St. Paul, Minneapolis can now claim its own best-in-class contender.

  • Katherine Harris
  • Katherine Harris
  • Katherine Harris
    Green chicken curry and seafood mousse steamed in banana leaves.

In past reviews, I’ve described what, in my book, deserve to be rated as the two top Thai restaurants in the metro. One is Bangkok Thai Deli and the other is On’s Thai Kitchen—both located just blocks apart on University Avenue in St. Paul. However, as of a few months ago, Minneapolis can now claim its own best-in-class contender, Krungthep Thai Cuisine on Eat Street in the former Seafood Palace.

Actually, the quality of the food at Krungthep isn’t a great surprise. A sister to Bangkok Thai, Krungthep’s menu is virtually identical to its kin. The one exception: In Minneapolis, a daily fresh seafood board offers 15 or so choices that can be prepared in a half-dozen or more ways.

There was no denying that both the panang curry and the deep bowl of green chicken curry with kaffir lime leaves, sweet basil, and eggplant were bursting with great flavors and textures.

As Thai restaurants go, the appetizer list here is relatively short. In addition to the obligatory fried egg rolls and fresh spring rolls (a larger rendition that’s tilted toward veggie fillings and isn’t anything extraordinary), there are thumb-sized, slightly spicy pork sausages, fried ginger-suffused fish patties, and hor mok—steamed curried fish mousse served in banana leaf, which has become so popular that it can run out early in the evening, as it did on our visit.

Once you get past the appetizers, it’s Katy bar the door. There are so many choices, many of them not well known in these parts, that picking and choosing is a dizzying challenge. One definite worthwhile direction is the salad category. You won’t go wrong with the nam tok—a classic mélange of grilled beef or pork, roasted rice powder, lime juice, mint, lemongrass, Thai chili pepper, and cilantro—or the house special shrimp salad, a largely similar combination incorporating shrimp. Our only folly was to order the salads seasoned to “medium.” Although everyone in our group considered themselves heat seekers, that level of intensity proved more than expected. Ordering “mild” and having the option to spice things up with items from the table’s condiment tray is a much more savvy way to go.

The curries are another good bet. Although the native Thai eater among us didn’t think the gravies were prepared from scratch, and a couple of the ingredients weren’t properly timed, there was no denying that both the panang curry and the deep bowl of green chicken curry with kaffir lime leaves, sweet basil, and eggplant were bursting with great flavors and textures.

Tom yum aficionados have two excellent hot pot preparations to choose between, with or without coconut milk. The light red rim around the edge of the soup vessel is a sign that the chili seasoning is an additive, but that doesn’t diminish the otherwise terrific hot and sour character of the broth. And although pad Thai is one of those dishes that tends to be judged by personal rather than technical criteria, it’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying the very high-quality recipe used here.

The list of raves is lengthy and, considering the amazingly pocket-friendly prices, there’s not much downside in letting your wild side experiment with some unfamiliar dishes. I can’t wait to go back and try the stir-fried softshell crab in curry powder (or maybe one of the fresh Dungeness crab preparations), the steamed rice with fried egg and ground pork, and the stuffed chicken wings that are a knockout at Bangkok Thai.

I’m also eager to reprise the incredible taro custard, a rich and toothsome dessert that is one of the finest Asian sweets I’ve ever eaten. And if that isn’t enough, we were told that the restaurant will soon have a wine and beer license as well as its own menu, which will be about half again as long as the first version.

Not since the departure of Royal Orchid has there been Thai cuisine in Minneapolis as authentic and enjoyable as that served at Krungthep Thai. 2523 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-874-7721