Krungthep Thai is the real deal

Eat Street spot wins with authenticity

Krungthep Thai is the real deal
Benjamin Carter Grimes
Boat noodle soup. Take the tour.

Whether used in as a positive descriptor or, less frequently, as a derogatory adjective, the word "authentic" is thrown around a lot in conversations about Krungthep Thai, the Eat Street spot next to Pancho Villa that was once Seafood Palace, a Chinese restaurant with its own small but loyal following. When sorting the gold-star winners from the lower achievers, Krungthep seems to be measured, like many other Thai restaurants in the Twin Cities, by its level of authenticity. But what measuring stick are we using when we talk about authenticity? Is it the heritage of the chefs or the ingredients they use? Is there a Platonic ideal for khao phat? Perhaps it's the chef's tools or techniques that we expect to deliver the goods. Whatever the case, if we want our Thai food to pass some litmus test, Krungthep does so with flying colors.

It's a snowy weekend night, somewhat late for diners and tough for parking, which would explain the unoccupied tables at Krungthep, the new Minneapolis annex of St. Paul's Bangkok Thai Deli. We're met with hot and fragrant Jasmine tea and even hotter food at the suggestion of our server, a real-life version of Netflix's "Suggestions for You," who bases her answers to each of our detailed questions on the food we have already ordered. "You have the fish patties [an appetizer bursting with lemongrass, garlic, and basil but well-rounded with an almost sausage-like texture, though we expected something more like a crab cake] and the curried fish in banana leaf [a steamed dish containing mousse-like white fish with chiles and the clean finish of Thai basil], so you should keep going with the fish," she tells us, genuinely interested in giving us a full experience. "If you see something you like up there," she says, pointing to a list of fresh seafood on a dry erase board, "we can do it five or six ways."

This simple act is demonstrative not only of Krungthep's lack of pretense but of its malleability when it comes to meeting the needs of its customers. When I talked to manager April Chiem, she let me know that while they are presently using Bangkok Thai Deli's exact menu, they plan to "have a new menu just for Krungthep, with more seafood and other Thai specialties." That is both a nod to the clientele they have gained from their sister restaurant and a gesture to those saddened by the loss of Seafood Palace.

Server Nok Wozniak (left) and manager April Chiem dish up spicy, unpretentious Thai food
Benjamin Carter Grimes
Server Nok Wozniak (left) and manager April Chiem dish up spicy, unpretentious Thai food

Location Info

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Krungthep Thai

2523 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Details

Appetizers $4-$7; entrees $9-$12 (market price on seafood)

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With owner Glen Yamthongkam and his sister Pranee working the kitchen, producing the dishes they learned from their parents and grandparents, all the specialties we sampled were very special indeed. More standard fare like small, tubular egg rolls and fresh, herb-forward spring rolls were excellent, but the keep-them-coming-back offerings were welcome surprises: puff-pastry-wrapped spiced ground pork and water chestnuts; whole bone-in, panko-kissed chicken wings stuffed with silver thread noodles, pork, and a mixture of crunchy vegetables; and the aforementioned fish patties and curried fish in banana leaf.

Moving on to entrées was a bit daunting, given the more than 200 menu options. Our server asked about vegans, vegetarians, and nut allergies before helping us choose some of her favorite, less-ordered dishes, including the soft-shell crab with curry powder (Chiem also named this as an overlooked but beloved dish), the walleye with Thai herbs (which arrived head-on, deep-fried, and dressed with clear-your-sinuses chiles, basil, sprouts, and toasted cashews), and the sweet but still ridiculously hot green curry with scallops. We were sufficiently forewarned about the high Scoville level of these dishes, but ordered them "hot" nonetheless. I can anticipate the needling internet commenters who will say it's just our mild Minnesotan palate that tolerates little more than ketchup, but I have eaten vindaloo in Scotland (don't judge, they have a higher population of east Indian immigrants than we do people from Thailand) and singe-your-lips chakalaka in South Africa, and this was hot. All the extra napkins we asked for weren't to wipe our fingers clean from picking apart the tri-flavored lobster (messy, but amazingly sweet with fiery oils and a tomato-based sauce), but to dab our faces like a devastated Blanche DuBois. We got major vapors from the crunchy stir-fried seeds that flecked the snow peas in the pad prik, which we ordered with a special egg tofu that was delicate, luxurious, and cut into small, indented rounds.

On a different visit, we did observe a slight difference in the interpretation of spice level. The red curry with roasted duck, a classic dish that is often either very greasy or full of bones (neither was true at Krungthep), which we ordered with "medium" spice, came out very mild, but the red variety does tend to be less spicy than the green. For any level of spice, Krungthep smartly offers several cooling drinks (their liquor license is pending) to combat the heat. We downed perfumey hibiscus juice and delicious Thai iced tea, sweetened with condensed and coconut milk, but it was the pure coconut juice, served in the whole fruit, that really wowed us. The initial taste is a little thick and salty, but within seconds your whole mouth is overcome with that just-ate-a-macaroon feeling that calms all the senses and opens your palate for the next bite.

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10 comments
mandymoon
mandymoon

We've eaten here a few times before and had a pretty decent experience - not too expensive & pretty good food.  The atmosphere blows but most of the time I don't give it a shit if it's worth the experience.  I'm writing this now, blood boiling, because we just had the worst Friday night (!) dinner experience EVER at Krungthep, and the fact that we had to pay for it, makes me feel like I was just assaulted and robbed.

 

Friday night, walked in the door, maybe 10 people in the place, man standing behind the counter sees us, sighs and goes back to rearranging his receipts.  After my date and I exchange confused looks and maybe 2 minutes passes, counter man grabs two menus and says in the most disgruntled voice, "dine in?" - our reply, "yes...sorry to bother you".

 

That alone should of turned us away.  I mean if your host doesn't know how to freaking HOST - you FEEL UNWELCOME, at an establishment that is supposed to do the exact opposite.  The young boy waiter (never heard his name), beard-o, just pushed us over the edge.  After my male date apologized for ordering before me (to the waiter), stating that he merely wanted to ask for some recommendations, the waiters reply was, "guys, I don't care who orders first".  SERIOUSLY??!  Seriously.  I think we both turned red, appalled that we even continued to stay seated.  We were checked on ONCE, after our food had arrived (at separate times) and AFTER we had eaten more than half the meal - never asked if we needed more drinks, water, chopsticks, desert....JUST FUCK OFF.  

 

I overheard the waiter tell the table behind us he just realized he had never brought them their drinks - but "he took them off the receipt" - REALLY?  YOU DID?  how kind of you?  How about fucking comping them with two glasses of wine - or a desert??  This country wants to complain about unemployment and not enough jobs and how that's the fault of the president or the government.  I say it's in the hands of all those that own businesses.  I say there are plenty of hard working people out of work, and too many LAZY, ENTITLED, UNDESERVING people who have jobs.  Time for us to get some perspective.  Two people at this establishment brought the whole experience down for us - we will NEVER be back.  My only hope is that someone at the restaurant reads this, fires these two and hires two deserving unemployed.

 

Dearnona
Dearnona

I think authenticity is a flawed scale sometimes in the sense that there are so many regions in Thailand that the same dish is prepared completely different. What matters is what tastes good or remarkably good and the chef understands Thai ingredients and balance of flavors. To each their own. Cant wait to try it.

LocalSkeptic
LocalSkeptic

Krungthep is fabulous, I am soooo thrilled to have them in the Eat St. 'hood. We have plenty of Vietnamese places, Rainbow for Chinese, Peninsula for Malaysian, not to mention excellent German, Greek, Mexican, Tibetan, and so on. But not Thai, the closest was Amazing Thai in Uptown. I foresee walking over to Krungthep often ... and stopping for a cocktail at Eat St. Social after, as well!

Dominatrix Hater Dickerson
Dominatrix Hater Dickerson

I went to Nong's this week. Food was very good. Tomboy waitress stomping around, pointing, yelling, and throwing my receipt down to sign and then walking to back room was enough to say fuck it I don't need that.

Paul (Nong's Owner)
Paul (Nong's Owner)

We are sorry that you have bad experience at Nong's. We are trying to make it better for all customer. We will definitely do something about this. Thank you for your comment.

idrivefast
idrivefast

I love this place. Maybe I missed it in the article, but Krungthep is CHEAP to boot! Pad Thai with pork/beef/chicken is $8. Want shrimp with that instead? $9. Seafood? $10. The portion sizes are a bit smaller than a lot of other Thai restaurants in the area, but it's more than enough for most people. I ordered a noodle dish and an order of spring rolls the second time I went and I had enough left over for lunch the next day.

Price and portion size are secondary if the food sucks, and thankfully the food was very solid every time I have visited. Despite the article diplomatically skirting around the authenticity question, rest assured: Krung is legit. They don't dumb down the spice level for bland Minnesota palates thankfully. I frequently cook with ghost peppers and habs, and Krung is the first Thai restaurant I can recall where when I ask for a dish "Thai hot" it actually came out with some kick.

So yeah, if you want to check out an extremely reasonably priced Thai restaurant with a very extensive menu (or "menus" since you get the main menu, the specialty menu, and then a list of daily specials on the white board) with no pretension, check it out. I plan on hitting it up once a week or so until I make a dent into their menu.

Who is this, anyways?
Who is this, anyways?

Sounds like I'll have to venture to the dreaded Uptown to inspect this place! (haha, sorry I'm pushing 30). Love me some Thai. Sounds like a real winner.

And although it sounds preposterous, there are 2 authentic places in the West Metro where you can also get the true 'Thai Hot'. Nong's in Golden Valley (won CP best thai award last year) and Thai Table in Plymouth. If you're ever out near 169, check one of them out for comparison.

Seems like the Twin Cities in general is Thai-rich... and I'm not complaining!

IDriveFast
IDriveFast

Hey, I'm older than that. Get off my lawn! Don't worry, despite being next door to Pancho Villa (hipster city), Krung hasn't been invaded by hipsters yet. At this point they still congregate at Quang's and Pancho. Hopefully it stays that way. Although if Krung's request for a liquor license is approved (hopefully!) and they sell PBR (hopefully not!), that may change.

Good suggestions about Nong's and Thai Table. There are a handful of Thai spots around the Plymouth/GV/MTKA area, but unfortunately they all sort of blend together since they all seem to reside in strip malls so it becomes hard to differentiate between them. Is Thai Table owned by the same people that ran Ketsana's in Richfield a while back? If so, I ate there once and was pleasantly surprised. Ketsana's, when they were on their A-game, actually brought heat. It was a pity they closed.

And yes, the cities in general have a plethora of Thai restaurants. I remember back in the mid 90's when I first started eating at Sawatdee, and I knew that things were going to change for the better in the TC metro as more and more people flocked to eat there. I live relatively close to Krungthep in the Wedge and within a 15 minute walk or so I can hit Krungthep, Roat Osha (sleeper happy hour), Amazing Thailand, Chiang Mai Thai, and Tum Rup Thai. We really do have an abundance of Thai food in the city, and now even the suburbs. And that's a good thing IMO.

 
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