The fact that I’ve eaten something like eight spring rolls in the last week should serve as clear testament that Southeast Asia is alive and
well-represented in Sonoma County’s food repertoire. And in my own.
But as peanut sauce, Pad Thai and Tom Yum become increasingly common, they’re also becoming increasingly uninspired.
Now before you throw your chopsticks at me, let me say that I love a good satay and Pad Thai as much as the next guy. But menus like the one at the recently opened Khoom Lanna confound me. Because while I’ve come to expect ho-hum, ubiquit-Asian dishes like calamari rings, cream cheese wontons (ye gods!), satay, coconut prawns, sweet and sour pork, cashew chicken and pineapple fried rice at lesser haunts, I’m disappointed at seeing them here. Khoom Lanna claims as its inspiration and namesake ‘Lanna’, the Thai kingdom known for its creativity and fine food and has a price point to match ($9.95 to $12.95 for most entrees).
Pushing through the fledgling restaurant’s menu, however, I am inspired by dishes like Plah Gung ($10.95), charboiled prawns with lemon grass, onions, cilantro, lime and ground rice powder. Beautifully plated, it packs a flavor one-two punch. Lime, lemongrass, sweet, salty, savory and crunchy all at once–something Thai food does like no other. Unfortunately, after a few bites, the
powerful fish sauce and herbs start to grate on the palate. There’s potential here if the chef can get the flavors evened out.
The fresh rolls ($8.95) are also imaginatively plated, with little bean sprout Afros puffing out on top. Again, nice initial flavor, but the blob of earthy sprouts just gets in the way after few bites. Kudos, however, for the warm, savory peanut sauce served along side that’s among the best I’ve had.
Lunch specials, like the daily curry ($7.95), are a good bet at Khoom Lanna if you want to try a smaller version of the house curries or other entrees. One pitfall: The tasty appetizer promised was a lackluster green salad doused with pucker-inducing vinegar. A better bet might be soup, or a spring roll to really get my mouth-watering.
Also pleasing is the variety of curries, including ‘Jungle Curry’ made without coconut milk and studded with catfish and veggies, along with Tamarind fish (steamed red snapper with tamarind, peppers, ginger and onions) and sticky rice.
Khoom Lanna, 107 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707.545.8424. Open 11-2:30pm for lunch, 5pm to 10pm for dinner.