The Mein Man: Kamrai Misses the Boat with Its Noodles

kamrai_boat_noodles_500Dish: Boat Noodles

Place: Kamrai Thai Cuisine, Shoreline

Price: $9.50

In the Bowl: Per the menu: “Rice noodle with steam beef, green onions, cilantro and bean prouts.”

Supporting Cast: A caddy of condiments: salt, chili flakes, chili oil, and Sriracha, I believe.

What to do: Just eat. You can spice up the soup if you like, but if you order as I did, that won’t be necessary.

Noodling around: Your server will ask you what spice level you’d like. I told him I wanted it very spicy, and he eagerly asked, “Ten?” I nodded yes, but then quickly asked the numerical range. “One to five,” he said with a smile. I smiled back, satisfied with the thought of a perfect ten.

Ten it was. This was a barn-burner. (My companion’s phad keemao was similarly spicy.) But that was the only thing that made me feel a connection to Thailand, where I remember sweating over my soup, happily, my first meal there.

To me, boat noodles (kuay tiow reua) should have at least the option of a variety of meats, including offal. I’m talking beef balls, liver, tripe, crispy fried pig skin, beef tendon, and pork blood cubes. The soup should be dark, murky, and maybe even a bit mineral-like. Just as I recall it at the fabulously hole-in-the-wall Sapp Coffee Shop in Los Angeles, where a bowl is about half the price as here. Sadly, besides missing the meats, Kamrai’s soup lacked complexity, boring me with its one note-ness.

If still hungry: Given the high prices and limited selection (see below), and a desire for something for vegetables, I’d go for the deep-fried (there are no fresh) spring rolls, stuffed with mixed vegetables and cellophane noodles (almost the cheapest appetizer at $6.75). Salads are all priced over ten dollars, and are all protein-based.

Be aware/beware: Kamrai is in the location that was once Uthaithani–which was much better in quality. In a city loaded with Thai restaurants that all have fairly uniform menus Kamrai’s menu is even more basic than most. (Where’s our Pok Pok? Our Lotus of Siam? Our SriPraPhai? And where are there real boat noodles?) It’s uninspiring and expensive. Though I am curious to know what the “American snow” (from the “dsserts” section) is all about…

First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on January 25, 2011.

Kamrai Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon


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