A Chinese friend of mine once told me that the quality of a Chinese restaurant is directly proportionate to the number of Chinese people dining there on any given evening. She called it “the origin of menu principle” and used it as a rule of thumb for dining just about anywhere. Generally, she was right, but the two flaws in the principle are that it only applies if there happen to be a lot of people in the area who come from the same culture as the restaurant’s menu and have many such restaurants to choose from. While former Grapevine Bezt í Heimi winner Shalimar is exceptional because it offers authentic Indian cuisine in a country with few Indians, Krua Thai takes the prize this issue because there happen to be a lot of Thais in Iceland (over 500 by last count) and quite a few Thai restaurants, but on any given evening you will find a lot of Thai people eating at Krua Thai.
The building is non-descript, half-hidden under an aging and equally non-descript guesthouse just a block west of the city library. The dining room has a simple and friendly atmosphere – this isn’t a restaurant where you’ll be overwhelmed by plastic kitsch dampening what would have otherwise been an enjoyable meal. The set-up is pretty straightforward, too: you order and pay at the counter, get your glasses, flatware and water from the counter, and your food is brought to you.
This minimalism leaves a lot of room to concentrate on the full spectrum of tastes that comes from the food: the vegetables, herbs and spices needed are either grown in Iceland or flown in fresh from southeast Asia, which you can certainly taste in the red curry and coconut dishes in particular. The portions are huge – two people could split a meal for one easily.
On top of being just good food, it also stays adamantly true to traditional recipes without sacrificing flavour to better suit less acclimated palates. Dishes labelled “hot” and “very hot” are precisely those, so if you’re not familiar with Thai cuisine, approach these meals with caution or at least an ample amount of rice – which should be easy to come by, since every dine-in meal comes with a bottomless supply. More than the all-Thai kitchen staff, the crowning mark of authenticity is, as previously mentioned, the sheer amount of Thais themselves who eat there, especially for dinner. The origin of menu principle is never more true than at Krua Thai. All this, and most meals stay below the 1000 ISK mark. For best take-away results, look up their menu at www.kruathai.is and then order by phone.
If you want a restaurant adorned in decorations associated with Asia that serves bland, westernized versions of Thai food, there are plenty of places you can go. But if you want generous servings of authentic and inexpensive Thai food, then Krua Thai is where you need to be.
Krua Thai, Tryggvagata 14, 101 Reykjavík
Mon. – Fri., 11:30 – 21:30, Saturday, 12:00 – 21:30, Sunday, 17:00 – 21:30
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