Under the salads, a dish called yum beef is described as grilled beef mixed with cucumbers, onion, mint and tomato and it “will make you say, ‘Yum, beef'”.
It goes on like this – little asides sprinkled throughout the lengthy menu. It’s surprisingly charming and fun. None of these add-ons are on Areeya’s online menu – you’ll need to enter to find them. In a recent phone call, I asked the owner Punya Tipyasothi who wrote the menu and he replied that it was his daughter Areeya, the restaurant’s namesake.
“My English is not good enough,” he laughs.
Tipyasothi, his wife Jarnpen Teeranooti (who goes by the name Moi Tee) and their daughter have lived in Shoreline for nearly 20 years after immigrating from Thailand. Tipyasothi runs Racha Thai restaurants (with locations in Redmond, Queen Anne and Bellevue), while Areeya Thai and Noodle – which will celebrate its 10e anniversary in July—and Sweet Moon, the adjoining dessert concept that opened in February, are run by Moi Tee and Areeya.
Areeya’s menu is deeply personal, filled with regional Thai specialties adored by Moi Tee. In an email, Moi Tee wrote that she was inspired by her travels across the country – from the staple northern Thai comfort dish, Hung Lay curry, to the crispy pork belly with spicy basil from the streets of Bangkok.
“When I travel, I would like to taste [everywhere] from local street food markets to five-star restaurants,” she wrote. “Many of them give me the opportunity to broaden my culinary experience.”
Hung Lay Curry ($18.50) features braised pork belly in a black coconut curry with tamarind juice and ginger. Chunks of lychee, lotus seeds and sweet potato add even more sweetness, while garlic clove and northern Thai spices help balance all that sweetness. It arrives rustling slightly in a clay pot; be sure to order a side of steamed rice.
Tipyasothi says it is rare to find the dish in other restaurants because although it is not difficult to prepare, it takes time.
“It’s special, local food,” he says.
The rest of the menu feels like visiting Thailand through the eyes of Moi Tee. They sell hoi tod, a pancake with fried mussels, because they also sell pud thai (a colloquial spelling of pad thai) and the duo are what Moi Tee calls “pals dishes”, i.e. dishes always ordered together. She serves crispy pork belly with spicy fried basil from central Thailand because it’s a dish she loves so much she would eat it “every day if my doctor would let me.”
And the fun asides on the menu are accurate — like this yummy beef salad ($14.50) with tender strips of juicy grilled beef tossed with fresh basil, mint, cucumbers and tomatoes in a bright, peppery vinaigrette with lime. It does, in effect, make you say “yum, beef!” while eating.
Caramel Chicken Wings ($10.50) are crunchy, sticky, and spicy/sweet — the rating says they make a “sticky but delicious start to any meal.” The five wings arrive at the table piping hot and should be eaten as quickly as possible before the caramel coating hardens like candy.
The dishes are well proportioned, large enough that if you order a few they can be shared around the table. The service is friendly and relaxed, as is the menu.
Mee Toi wrote that over the past decade she has tried to create dishes that will satisfy customers – but there has always been one thing that has nagged at her.
“Desserts and sweets. I [have] a big sweet tooth. It feeds my heart and my soul. Thais would express [it] like “dee tor jai”, an emotional phrasing when something makes you happy,” she wrote.
His sweet tooth was finally satisfied in February when they decided to turn half the restaurant into Sweet Moon, a bright space with its own entrance and a wall of faux purple wisteria for great selfie opportunities. There’s bubble tea, coffee, and a full menu of Asian desserts, from bingsu to Japanese honey toast.
Mee Toi hopes the desserts will inspire people to feel their own “dee tor jai” and wrote, “The love of sweetness and dessert started in unknown ways but happened naturally. As [I’m] as you get older, dessert is even before a meal without compromise. Many trips are essentially a simple search for local sweetness to satisfy the sweet tooth.
The Honey Toast ($17) is a real head-turner, with a slice of toasted Japanese milk bread topped with scoops of vanilla-strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, strawberry syrup and delicate rolled cookies. Fresh berries of all kinds dot the plate and a handful of crunchy puffed rice is tossed like edible sprinkles over the whole thing. It’s photogenic for sure, but it’s also delicious. Nice for anyone who loves desserts.
The Japanese cheesecake is marvelous – sort of dense but fluffy – and not too sweet, while the latte boba (the still-warm boba pearls) ($5.85) may make your toothache from the best possible way.
The restaurant duo together – comforting Thai cuisine alongside playful and delicious desserts – are just like mussel pancakes and pud thai, buddies that should always be enjoyed together.