This is kind of a long review for a restaurant but it was such a random experience that I had to document everything.
The hubby and I have seriously cut down on our eating out so that we don't spend too much of our decreased budget on food. But Saturday afternoon I realized that I hadn't taken the chicken I needed out of the freezer and I wasn't feeling that great anyways so the hubby mentioned that maybe we should just go out to eat finally. After much consideration, I said we could go and try to find someplace to eat but if we didn't find anything we were excited about we would go back home. I didn't want to spend our meager eating out budget just because I didn't know off the top of my head what to cook.
Rewind back about a week when we went to a local drugstore and I spotted a really crowded Thai restaurant named Opal Thai Food. I made note and told the hubby that it seemed like something we must try sometime. And then when trying to find restaurant reviews online on Saturday, I ran into it on Yelp and the restaurant just happened to have amazing reviews. So when driving into Haleiwa, the closest town to us with places to eat, I mentioned the restaurant and the hubby decided that's where we could go. I am going to note here that he did that just for me. Asian food is never a priority of his. Usually it takes advanced planning for him to even agree. Love him!
When we sat down we decided we would just order a couple of dishes and split them. I had read that the owner likes to order for everyone but I hadn't seen him nearby and I figured if we knew what we wanted he wouldn't feel the need to intervene. I quickly decided that we would get Pad Thai and spicy basil fried rice (I usually do the ordering for both of us at Asian restaurants). Then owner then appeared to take our order and I asked him how spicy the fried rice typically is. I had a previous experience with some fried rice at a Thai restaurant in Virginia where the rice was delicious but so hot I about burned my face off eating it and didn't want a repeat of that, especially while pregnant. Instead of answering the question, the owner proceeded to grab the menus out of our hands and ask us some questions to gauge what we typically like. Questions such as:
What are the 5 dishes you might typically order at a Thai restaurant?
Do you like lime?
How spicy do you like your food?
Do you like cilantro?
Do you have any allergies?
Do you like pork? Chicken? Shrimp? Tofu?
He then wrote a few things down and told us that he had us covered and walked away.
I was amused but a bit concerned about whether the hubby would like what we got and how much we would end up spending as we had little control over what was being ordered for us. It ended up being a wonderful experience though and our bill was only a little bit over what I think we would have spent if left to our own devices.
We had delicious, but a bit too spicy, lettuce wraps. I think the hubby acted too over enthused when asked how spicy we like our food. Oh well! I would order it again in a heart beat. We then received curry with a side of rice. Not sure exactly what curry we received as we hadn't really paid attention to the curries on the menu, but it was so good and it was the first time I have seen the hubby act the least bit excited over curry. I would go back just for that dish. We also received delicious shrimp Pad Thai which made me happy because I am a huge Pad Thai lover.
I think I might end up craving this place every week. Dang it! All of my Thai food loving friends need to come visit so I can have an excuse to go again, and again, and again.
Other favorite things about the restaurant:
The tin cups that kept the water really cold. I want some of these cups for my own kitchen.
The owner's son who may or may not have been trying to learn how to pick locks.
The owner himself. He is the type of owner that remembers his repeat customers and loves interacting with everyone. Very hands on.
Tips and misc. notes:
Just give in and let the owner order. You really don't have much of a choice anyways.
Make reservations. It's a small place and is crowded with locals and visitors alike.
Serving sizes might not be what you typically get at Thai restaurants on the mainland but I think the quality of the food well makes up for that.
If you go for lunch you could hit up the shops down the road for shaved ice afterwards. The shops typically close too early to go after dinner unless you eat around five.
The restaurant has a BYOB policy which didn't apply to us but for some reason it was amusing to see everyone walk over from the drugstore with a brown paper bag containing their drink of choice. There is certainly nothing high class about this area of Hawaii but I think that's part of its charm.