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Thai Hut Valley (Cotati, CA)

January 22nd, 2008 · by Cyndi · No Comments

This review was written February 15, 2006 as a letter to local restaurant reviewer Jeff Cox who promoted this place in the Press Democrat on January 22, 2006.  Note that we went there before discovering our food allergies, so the review doesn’t speak to that.

Authentic means good
Here’s what I look for in a Thai restaurant: reasonable (read: cheap) prices, good-sized portions, organic ingredients whenever possible, friendly folks, and an authentic way with Thai specialties like Pad Thai. That’s what you’ll find at Thai Hut Valley, 8492 Highway 116 South, #M,Cotati; (707) 665-0186.

Dear Mr. Cox,

Last night my husband and I, along with our 11 month old daughter, went to Thai Hut Valley based on your mini-review. We were disappointed. The food was mixed though and I wonder if you just got lucky and hit the few good dishes.

You claim the place is cheap, with big servings, organic ingredients, friendly service, and authentic tastes. Well, it was inexpensive, though the plates were about average or even small. If there were organic ingredients used, I couldn’t tell. The service was friendly but incompetent. And the flavors were Americanized.

One thing I loved about Thai Hut is that when we asked if we could get the coconut soup without chicken, the waiter replied, “would you like to see our vegetarian menu?” Music to our ears! We ordered vegetarian and seafood dishes, including coconut soup with tofu.

The soup base was delicious. A mix of Thai flavors that went very well together. But the tofu was bland and the vegetables were the usual “Asian” mix. What’s an “Asian” mix? it’s that ubiquitous blend of boring Middle America vegetables cooked to minimize flavor. White onion, green cabbage, carrot, zucchini, and white button mushrooms. These excuses for vegetables were not only in the soup but another dish we ordered, in a slightly different combination. The soup was salvaged by a meaty slice of ginger root (which my daughter spent a good 10 minutes chewing on), Thai basil, and what appeared to be a kaffir lime leaf. My daughter adored this soup and my husband and I enjoyed it as well, once we’d passed the vegetables along to our daughter.

We had freshly poured water and menus at our table when we sat down, but nothing else. We had to ask for a highchair. When the soup came, the waiter asked if we’d like rice with it. “No,” I replied, “just bowls.” He looked down at the table, registered some shock, and left to bring us bowls and spoons. A couple minutes later, he brought plates. We had to remind him to bring us napkins. When the plated dishes came, we had to ask for silverware. We also had to ask for a plate and napkin for our daughter.

The first of two plated dishes we ordered came soon after starting our soup. The other came about 15 minutes later, after we’d finished the first dish. The first dish was a seafood combination with sauteed eggplant. The shellfish (mussels, scallops, and shrimp) were cooked the right amount of time, the eggplant was perfectly creamy (my husband called it mushy and tasteless but I thought it was just right), and the sauce was wonderful.

My biggest problem with that dish was that it was advertised as hot. We asked the waiter to bring it medium and, when he heard how blistering my husband liked his food, volunteered to bring some spicy sauce on the side. Well, the dish had no heat whatsoever. It tasted fine but it wasn’t what we were promised. No extra sauce appeared. My daughter enjoyed the sauce as she isn’t yet appreciative of heat.

The last dish was a disaster. Mixed vegetables with tofu and a peanut sauce. The vegetables were all the “Asian” mix I describe above and they were bland as could be. The tofu had no flavor at all (tofu is supposed to be mild but, when it’s cooked properly, it should convey the seasoning, not just add to the mush factor).

And the sauce…probably the worst peanut sauce I’ve ever had. It tasted like cheap crunchy peanut butter with a lot of sugar. There was no heat, no seasoning, no subtlety of flavors. Just sweetness and a cloying chemical flavor. Shortly after my first bite, I got a tell-tale headache that let me know I’d ingested a preservative (potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, or something like that). While I suspect the peanut sauce, it could have been anything. So much for homemade.

If we had gone there and had nothing but coconut soup and seafood combination, I’d probably consider the place a nice little find, worth going to again if we were already in Cotati. But given the full experience, it was less than noteworthy.

Good Thai restaurants are so hard to find. We haven’t had any luck in Sonoma County, though I admit only trying a couple. Our favorite in the Bay Area is Phuping Thai in Richmond (next to 99 Ranch–they also have one in San Francisco) [note: the place has new owners and the food has suffered]. Unfortunately, Thai Hut Valley was far from the mark.


Categories: Food · Restaurant Reviews · SF Bay Area Restaurant
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