It was a cliche riddled dark and stormy night when I first went to one of, if not the best, Thai food restaurant in the Seattle area. That’s right, Seattle area, not even Seattle or Bellevue or Tacoma but instead Issaquah, outside of Bellevue and about twenty-five miles east of the Emerald City for those not familiar with the area.
Noodle Boat Thai isn’t easy to spot for the first-timer. The restaurant is neatly tucked behind a nail salon and trees on the far end of a strip mall along Gillman Boulevard.
Rich, clean, succulent aromas greet you as you enter the warm dining area which is liberally covered with Thai art that ranges from Hindu statues to Buddhist prints and carvings that would be at home in a jungle covered ruin in southeast Asia. It was Friday night when I went, meaning the restaurant was crowded and the small dinning area made it feel like I was rubbing elbows with my neighbor. That worked out in the end though since I was able to overhear their admiration for the curry and that helped to make up my mind for the dinner order.
Like other restaurants around the world cursed with being too busy, the service is slow during peak hours and a seemingly endless procession of take out orders seemed to sap the energy of the kitchen. On my first evening, I ordered the Queen of Banana and panang curry. The first dish seemed exotic and new with banana blossoms mixed in with mint, cilantro, onion, lime leaves, roasted coconut and topped off with both chicken and shrimp. The second dish is a favorite of mine and was going to be my control dish to judge the kitchen by, plus the other dinners recommended the curry.
There was also a small selection of beer and wine that hits on the standards of most middle-of-the-road bars as well as a few microbrews and of course the obligatory Asian brews like Tsingtao. There is also a modest selection of wine for those interested.
When our food finally arrived, it made the wait and suffering through other people’s conversations worth it. First the panang: it was just what I expected and filled my curry cravings. With the second place winner out of the way, we can move onto the true champ for that night’s dinner and that was the Queen of Banana.
Presentation was not its strong suite, it looked like a Thai ceviche with cooked chicken, but for what it’s worth—the colors were splendidly vivid. Whatever doubts I had about what I ordered though vanished when I took my first bite and was flooded with intense flavors of mint which faded away to cilantro and chilies. Both myself and my dining companion were very happy and finished the Queen of Banana while leaving the curry for leftovers.
Issaquah has more going on for it then most people give it credit and Thai Noodle Boat is testament to that. If you are driving through Issaquah or nearby and want some good Thai, go to Noodle Boat. The only major problem was that after leaving I was a little disappointed to find myself in stormy Washington and not in southeast Asia.