A taste of Thailand in T.O.
By JR Grant 10/27/2011
Thai Beach Cuisine
1774 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.
I’ve always been a fan of Thai restaurants; just as the Chinese take-away was a staple of my childhood, Thai restaurants now spring up in unlikely locations and are almost as peripatetic as Chinese cuisine used to be. When Cholada opened in Malibu in 1999, it was a very welcome addition to the standard food options of that well-visited beach community. And the food was innovative, fresh, different, and a great option for Malibu diners.
In 2008 Cholada expanded into Ventura County, first in Newbury Park and Downtown Ventura, but not really finding a location that attracted sufficient patronage. Hopefully, in its most recent incarnation in Thousand Oaks, Cholada will now develop a loyal and sustainable customer base and, due to its proximity to the T.O. Performing Arts Center, a satisfied theater and arts-supporting food clientele.
This restaurant is rather unprepossessing from the outside, along a strip mall part of Thousand Oaks Blvd. It sits by itself with its patio flanked by a large plastic yellow wisteria plant, and lots of greenery shading the enclosed patio.
Once inside, it is pleasant, but unmemorable and not noteworthy in its décor. Service is friendly, however, and one is quickly welcomed and seated, and after the first sip of deliciously sweet and freshly prepared Thai iced tea, one knows the cuisine will overpower the design.
I particularly like this restaurant at lunchtime; the lunch specials are very reasonable, and a good introduction to the full menu’s offerings. I usually choose the ginger beef, with onion, snow peas, black mushrooms and bell pepper. This savory dish is served with gyoza (hand-formed, small dumplings), steamed rice and a small Thai salad (which is laden with Thai basil and, when served with the creamy peanut dressing, is particularly delicious.) At $7.75, this is a very filing meal and a great choice.
I also like the ga pow chicken, which is basically stir-fried basil leaves, chicken bites, bell pepper and chili; and because I like added spice and pungency, I request the side relish tray, which has chopped hot chili, powdered blended spice and a chili paste. Most of the dinner items are scaled down for lunch, but still freshly prepared and promptly served.
One of my favorite dishes from the Malibu restaurant was on the menu the other day as a special. This is the Cholada pumpkin feast (I opted for chicken as the meat choice); beautifully chunked pumpkin mixed with peppers, basil, mint, tamarind and a savory light exotic brown sauce perfectly complementing this autumn mixture.
Another favorite, and available year round, is Buddha’s feast, which combines broccoli, snow peas, carrot, celery, bamboo shoots, mushroom, tomato, bell pepper and bean sprouts all stir-fried in the exotic brown sauce. At dinner the other night my companion was very happy with the “yummy param,” which is a choice of either sliced meat or, in my friend’s case, tofu served over fresh spinach and topped with a creamy peanut sauce.
Traditional Thai dishes such as pad thai and prik king are, of course, found in the extensive menu, along with lots of soups (including tom kah, tom yum, won ton, and glass noodle). By and large, a lot of the menu reflects Thailand’s proximity to Southern China, and dishes like the chow mein (pan-fried chow-mein noodle with celery, cabbage, carrot, string beans, onion, sprouts and choice of meat) certainly demonstrate a fusion of these two cultures and cuisines.
At some point, I’m going to save room for the enticing desserts. I’ve seen the mango sticky rice served at a nearby table, which looked divine, as did the expressions of delight on the diners’ faces after their sampling. Same story with the crispy banana roll and the coconut ice cream. For now, I’ll look forward to returning to this unexpected T.O. location and the many Thai food delights awaiting further enjoyment.