Everything is delicious at Chao Thai in Shibuya
For some reason, my search for great Thai food in Japan hadn’t really taken off during my first year here.
Odd, considering it’s one of my and my wife’s favorite foods. But as it happened, our original plans to eat Brazilian cuisine one night fell through, and when Thai food caught my eye during an online restaurant search, I was all in.
We ended up going to Chao Thai in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. We knew even before tasting anything that Chao would be seeing more of us. The restaurant’s atmosphere and the thick menu were enough to instill in us plenty of faith. The place was cozily decked out in warm colors and traditional Thai artwork, and the ceiling was lined with bamboo.
We were the first of the dinner crowd to arrive. When I initially looked at the menu, I was nervous that I’d spend too much time marveling at the illustrations at the expense of my hunger. My wife flirted with this danger, too. We promptly picked six items for the two of us to share and readied ourselves for the next phase.
We could have gone with one of the set courses — most of them included drinks, mixed appetizers, salad, curry and stir-fry — but we wanted noodles. The crystal noodles in particular were a must for my wife.
For appetizers, we ordered fresh spring rolls and barbecued pork sticks with bean sauce. The rolls were fresh and crunchy. The pork sticks were a little fatty for our liking, but the sauce was tasty.
From there we went with stir-fried chicken with buttery cashew nuts, spicy green chicken curry over rice, the aforementioned crystal noodles and pad thai noodles.
Everything was delicious. My wife and I shared silent nods of approval more than once. By the time the pad thai noodles came out, though, we were full. We each took one bite and had it boxed up.
A gaijin businessman eating at a nearby table gave a ringing endorsement of Chao. He said he visits Bangkok often, and that Chao does it the same as his favorite restaurants in Thailand.
One exception was the pineapple rice, which he insisted I take a picture of before I left. The look of it had me wishing I had spent more time studying the menu.
"I’ve never seen it done like this. Not even in Thailand," he remarked about the dish. "This is spectacular!"
I’d have felt a little shortchanged if I knew I wouldn’t be back real soon.
Location: 2-9-10, Dougenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo: Exit 15 out of Shibuya Station. Turn left and walk to the corner, and look for the bright yellow sign.
Prices: Lunch: 1,000 yen or less; Dinner: 2,000-3,000 yen; Drink: 350-650 yen
Specialties: Noodles, curries, stir-fries, salads, meats
English menu: Yes
Clientele: Dressy or casual, groups or couples
Web site: www.chaothai.jp (Japanese only)