Dining editor Heather Irwin shares a couple of favorite dining destinations to check out right now. Click through the above gallery for photos of must-order dishes.
Dozens of woven bamboo lanterns float high above the outdoor-indoor dining patio flanked by two-story sliding glass shoji walls. Inside, water gently tinkles into a charming concrete pond filled with aquatic plants. Khom Loi, located inside the former Peter Lowell’s in downtown Sebastopol, is an homage to the global cuisine of Chiang Mai and nearby Laos, with nods to central and southern Thailand.
There’s nothing demure about the spicy, sweet, sour, and bitter flavors in every one of the dishes. “It’s about having fun,” Williams said. “Our dishes are like what you would find in Thailand.” What do you do with the piles of lettuce, basil, and mint that come with several dishes? You wrap up morsels in them, or take a bite of one thing, then a bite of another. For me, being an outsider to this style of eating is what’s so enjoyable, especially when I can’t travel to far-flung places.
It’s about making that effort to engage, learn something new, and make a few awkward mistakes along the way. Or just go to Khom Loi to eat really good Pad Thai. Your call.
Gai Tod (lemongrass fried chicken), $10: The smell of lemongrass and fried lime leaves, plus a sharp black pepper and chile sauce ( nam jim) and two-bite fried chicken pieces make this dish almost impossible to share.
Som Tam Pu (green papaya salad), $12: Dried shrimp and fish sauce are two of my favorite things about Thai food, but sometimes it’s difficult to find either of these salty, fishy flavors that pump up the volume of green papaya salad. Here, unripe papaya is a crunchy carrier for a tart-sweet lime fish sauce I could literally drink with a straw.
Bpet Yang (charcoal-grilled Liberty Duck breast), $18 (half) or $35 (whole): Another local-meets-Thai dish with a crispy charred exterior and buttery-soft, rare interior, just like it should be. The fun is in mixing and matching the duck with bites of lettuce, pumpkin, long beans, and a green chile sauce.
Quail & Condor
Bakery superstars Melissa Yanc and Sean McGaughey have quietly opened a small storefront in Healdsburg. The couple are known for their wild yeast sourdough and hearty dark loaves (walnut persimmon is our fave), but their sweet pastries, including sourdough and pistachio croissants, and filled Danish, are worth the trip alone. The bakery also features Black Oak coffee and espresso. Open Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 149 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.