Friday, December 4, 2015

King & I Thai – Mendota Heights, MN

My favorite Thai restaurant used to be in downtown Minneapolis – King & I. It closed down due to its lease being up and people in the Twin Cities were really upset about it. It announced it was re-opening, but in a new location: Mendota Heights. The internet was angry about this, even though it’s a 15 minute drive from downtown Minneapolis, and for most people the same amount of time it took to find a parking spot and walk to the restaurant anyway. People just like to complain. Additionally, recent reviews of the restaurant have complained about the change in atmosphere (it used to be dark and a little dive-y and in a basement of an apartment building – and had an awesome multi-level dining patio), and the lack of its elaborate cocktails. I’m here to tell you to ignore those reviews. The real reason to go to King & I Thai is the amazing food – and it HASN’T changed a bit.

First off, Mendota Heights is right on Highway 62 – the Crosstown highway. Yes, it changes names when it crosses the river to 110, but it’s still the same road. Seriously, it’s REALLY easy to get to this place. And they have a huge parking lot, so you don’t have to walk or valet park. It’s perfect.

The menu is still the same – everything I remember ordering at the old location, I think they carried over to the new location. D.Rough and I got an order of Cream Cheese Rolls. These were one of our favorite things at the old location. When they arrived, it was clear they were exactly the same. We loved these little crispy logs filled with cream cheese. They’re great!

I got the Roasted Hot Pepper Sauce with Chicken – it’s a bunch of meat, peppers, garlic, onions, cashews, and peanuts. It’s apparently their top seller. D.Rough got the Pad Kee Mao – rice noodles with garlic chili sauce, tomato, Thai holy basil, and broccoli. I remember loving their Thai holy basil ANYTHING at the previous locations to my hopes were set pretty high.

The Roasted Hot Pepper Sauce was wonderful. I was worried about the spice level, since I can remember having painfully spicy meals at their previous location. The rich sauce was absolutely perfect. I loved that they had both cashews and peanuts in the dish and the chicken tasted really fresh and not rubbery. There’s a reason this is their best seller. I would totally get this on any subsequent visit here.

The Pad Kee Mao was exactly what I needed – a comparison to the original restaurant that actually held up against all the negative reviews. This meal tasted EXACTLY like the ones I had at the previous location – the Thai holy basil hasn’t changed one iota. It’s perfect. It’s spicy without being painful and isn’t a one-note pony. It’s got the kind of flavor that makes you keep eating it. We both really loved both of our dishes (and our appetizer, obviously).

Do yourself a favor if you’ve been wondering whether this place has changed. If it has, it got better. You can do without the cocktails – they still have wine and beer (including Surly). The atmosphere isn’t as sketchy a the old location, but we think it’s much nicer and fresher. The only thing that may have changed is the spice level – it’s a little less spicy than it used to be. I love the heat, but if you ever ordered a 4 or a 5 at the previous location, you’ll now need to order a 5 or a 6. They can still bring the heat, but I no longer feel scared to order a 4-level spice here. This makes me happy because now I Can finish an entire meal without bursting into tears. Hahaha.

Top 5 things about King & I Thai
1. Roasted Hot Pepper Sauce
2. Pad Kee Mao
3. Cream Cheese Rolls
4. They have Surly
5. It hasn’t changed a bit!

Bottom 5 things
1. Nothing – it’s even better than it used to be!

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